John Foot: Win or lose today, Italy must find a way to beat its shame

Some say that a victory tonight would inevitably be tainted

Share

Every stereotype has been overturned during Italy's glorious run to the World Cup final in Germany. Famed for defensive football, the team has gone on the attack. The squad, united as rarely before, has shown little sign of diving, or violence. Which team has been fouled the most? Italy.

Last week millions of Italians poured on to the streets to celebrate the semi-final triumph. Hero-worship has been heaped upon the team and its manager, Marcello Lippi. After five years of institutionalised illegality and international shame, a new, post-Berlusconi Italy is emerging through football .

Meanwhile, back in Rome, an older Italy has been on trial. Four top clubs (Juventus, Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina) face relegation next week following charges of match fixing and sporting fraud. Criminal investigations in Rome, Naples, Milan, Turin, Parma and Perugia have pointed to a network of corruption and false accounting. Cheating appears to have been a way of life.

Of course, these two worlds are in no way related. Nothing should be made of the fact that eight footballers due to appear in the final play for Juventus, the club at the heart of the scandal. Nor should any conclusions be drawn from Lippi's career - he spent seven years at Juventus in the 1990s (winning five championships). Zinedine Zidane, France's captain, was a key part of that team. Moreover, Lippi's son, Davide, is being investigated by magistrates in Rome for his activities with the GEA World, the football agents' organisation. Finally, no inferences should be drawn from the doping trials which shocked Italy, and occurred during the Lippi era with Juventus. At the moment, the doping case is awaiting a final decision by the Italian high court.

If Italian football was a corrupt system, who was in on it? A lot of people, it seems, including referees, journalists, tax police and TV presenters. Yet the players, from what we can gather, had no suspicions. Lion-hearted Fabio Cannavaro - team captain and national hero - held a special press conference in the run-up to the tournament after he appeared to defend some of the people at the centre of the scandal. So did the players know what was going on and fail to denounce anything to the authorities, which is a crime in Italy?

Some say that a victory tonight would inevitably be tainted, but there are many who want the festa to obscure the dark side of the game. The most senior advocate of an amnesty for the wrongdoers is none other than Clemente Mastella, Italy's Minister for Justice, who says the government won't interfere although the fans seem to be asking for it. Mastella is a friend of two of the alleged ringleaders, and his son is a football agent.

Whatever the result, tonight will see the biggest transfer market of the century open in earnest. Every Juventus player (and possibly those from the other clubs, as well) will be up for grabs - except for club icon Alessandro Del Piero, who has promised to stay with Juve. One key figure - Fabio Capello - has already jumped ship, and may use the sale to recruit some of his former players for Real Madrid. Italy may win and the party go on for days, but the crisis is deep and structural.

Italian football - and Italian society - are at a point of no return. In the past, the well-worn tactics of cover-up, delay and confusion have been employed in the face of scandal. This time, win or lose, there has to be a new beginning.

John Foot's 'Calcio: A History of Italian Football' is published by Fourth Estate

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York