Thursday, February 16, 2012

Milan AC Campionato Serie B 1980 1981

'And what is so new about all this? That football is fake, corrupt. We knew that already, even if some people pretended they didn't know, or didn't want to know because they have economic interests, or simply because they are fans ... do you really think that the people who run football want to blow things wide open. I don't ... they'll find a couple of players near the end of their careers, and football will emerge stronger than ever' M. Montezzi, Lazio midfielder, 4.3.1980
Between December 1979 and February 1980, two Rome-based businessmen were to be found in the stands of a number of Serie A and Serie B matches across Italy. They visited Palermo and Avellino in the south, and Bologna in central Italy. The men were football fans, but they were not at the games out of a sense of fun. In fact, they thought they knew something that virtually no other spectator of those games knew - the final result. The games were fixed . .. and they had fixed them - or at least tried to. It must have been extremely strange for these two men to be watching those matches, knowing as they did that a number of players, and sometimes managers and even club presidents, had agreed on a certain result. Strange, and also very stressful, as a lot of money was riding on the ability of those players to fix things correctly. The two men's names were Massimo Cruciani, 32, and Alvaro Trinca, 45. This scandal was given a number of different titles, such as calcioscommesse, but is best known by the name Totonero. Totonero was (and is) the term given to illegal football betting systems in Italy - where Totocalcio is the legal, state-run betting game. Illegal punters could bet far more extensively than legal ones, but they trusted their money to people without scruples, who were often at the very least on the fringes of organized crime syndicates. It goes without saying that no tax was paid on any of this betting, and that the potential for quick lire was immense - a temptation that our two businessmen, and a number of players, found hard to resist. This is a complicated story, so let us begin with our two potential fixers, Cruciani and Trinca.

 The game-fixers and whistle-blowers were two minor players in a corrupt system: Alvaro Trinca, restaurant-owner and snappy dresser, and Massimo Cruciani, fruit and vegetable trader and fanatical Roma fan. Both lived in Rome and were friendly with a lot of professional footballers. A group of Lazio players used to eat regularly in Trinca's restaurant in Rome - La Lampara (where he was famous for making 'frozen fish seem fresh') - including Lionello Manfredonia, Bruno Giordano, Pino Wilson and Massimo Cacciatori. Lazio's president had become convinced that eating there brought his team good luck. Events were to prove him wrong. It was here that the plot was hatched. Certain players would receive sums of money to fix games, which Cruciani, and his friends, would bet on, illegally. Between 1979 and 1980, this form of football betting became rife. Footballer Carlo Petrini, who was in on some of the fixing, also claims that it was not so much the money involved (which had to be divided amongst a lot of people) as the sense of power that attracted some of the players. They really felt that they were above the law. Working together, Cruciani and Trinca tried to fix the results of at least eight games in twelve weeks in 1979-80.

 The two men's first fixing attempts failed to bring any reward. A friendly game between Lazio and Palermo 'did not count', as the Lazio players missed the plane for Sicily. Then, a bet on Taranto-Palermo was lost, as the game - fixed as a draw - ended up as an away win. The two sorry fixers went down from Rome to see the game. The player who had guaranteed the draw promised he would make things up to them after they angrily confronted him in an airport lounge, and even offered them his win bonus. Trinca said that the player kept trying to give penalties away in the second half, to no avail. At their third attempt - Avellino-Perugia - their bribes finally worked. That fix was mediated through an acquaintance of Cruciani's, a former Roma player who played for Avellino. At this point, despite their previous losses, the two fixers were about £3,000 up. As time went on, the sums involved became bigger and bigger, and word began to spread about the fixing. Some illegal bookmakers started to refuse to take their bets but they went on regardless. For a Milan-Lazio game Cruciani was informed that Lazio player Montesi 'was not in agreement' with the fixing. By then, Cruciani was fixing two matches at once, but his efforts were hit and miss. Cruciani and Trinca lost 200 million lire on one match and they began to suspect that they were being taken for a ride: 'From that moment on', Cruciani said, 'we stopped dealing with the Lazio players.'

 The last game the two men tried to fix was Bologna-Avellino in February 1980. By then, they were desperate. Cruciani went to the game, and told the players that if things went wrong 'he would be completely ruined'. Everything seemed to be going well. At one point the players simply passed the ball around at the back amongst themselves - melina. But Bologna forward Giuseppe Savoldi scored a winner for Bologna fifteen minutes from the end. Carlo Petrini - who was in on the fix - later called Savoldi 'an idiot for scoring that goal. The fix had failed, yet again. Cruciani didn't even win on a Bologna-Juventus draw (which he said he did not fix, because it was already agreed upon independently) because he had played a double with another game, whose result didn't turn out as expected. Not only did Cruciani and Trinca not have enough resources to fix games properly, but they were also defrauding a group of ruthless men - the illegal bookmakers. Moreover, they did nothing to cover their tracks, talking openly about their plans to a whole series of people and writing innumerable cheques in their own names. The whole enterprise was bound to end in disaster, and they would not go down alone. Rumours began to spread. The scandal - which broke in March 1980 - was a long time coming, and had been brewing in the press for some weeks. In January 1980 the left-wing daily Paese Sera claimed that profits from the illegal Totonero system were close to those of the official, state-run Totocalcio. This was a huge and embarrassing claim. There was also a brave whistle-blower amongst the players. Lazio mid-fielder Maurizio Montesi was on the political left in a very right-wing side. His unprecedented interview with journalist Oliviero Beha caused a storm. After attacking the 'generalized' system of illegal betting, Montesi concluded that 'corruption exists everywhere' in Italy, and the world of football was no exception. There is no doubt that Montesi's career suffered as a result of his outspokenness.

Following revelations and gossip in the press, a tentative sporting inquiry was opened by magistrate Corrado De Biase on behalf of the football federation in January 1980. Days later, De Biase - a conservative magistrate close to retirement, who had run the football federation's investigative body for years - turned up in Rome. He wanted to speak to some Lazio players - including Montesi. All denied either betting or taking bribes, but all confirmed the existence of illegal betting rings. Suspicion surrounded Montesi's absence from a particularly 'suspicious' game with Milan, when he had 'been injured in the warm-up'. Two days later, Milan's veteran goalkeeper and former national hero Enrico 'Ricky' Albertosi gave an interview to Milanese newspaper Giorno. Albertosi admitted that he 'liked a bet' and had indeed backed - illegally - his own squad in the past. Questioned by De Biase, Albertosi adjusted his story, claiming that he had only had a few bets with his friends. After talking to Montesi again, De Biase was ready to close the case. There wasn't enough hard evidence to go any further. Once again, it was a journalist who pushed things on, this time in L'Europeo, a photo-investigative magazine similar to Life. An anonymous football bookmaker was quoted as saying that players would regularly bet on their own team to lose. This was a kind of 'insurance policy'. If they won, they got a win bonus. If they lost, they picked up their winnings (tax-free). De Biase decided to continue his investigations.

 The ability to make money from illegal gambling made match-fixing very attractive to players. Without the opportunity to bet, the fixing of matches (for footballing, not financial gain} could only be done through straightforward bribery - much more expensive, and risky, and therefore very rare - or through the exchange of footballing favours -especially where a draw suited both teams. Totonero offered far greater opportunities for fixers, and was especially appealing to seasoned professionals, eager to make their last tax-free cash sums before retirement. Totonero also meant that players could bet on those games that had already been fixed for 'footballing' reasons. Many players and journalists knew perfectly well what was happening, but few were willing to make their knowledge public. As ex-player and whistle-blower Petrini later wrote, 'those who tell the truth about calcio are treated like the supergrasses from the mafia'. As they lost more and more money, Cruciani and Trinca began to bet on credit - and when the players failed to deliver, again, they ended up in debt. Unfortunately for them, the people they owed money to not only were unwilling to wait for their cash, but they were also furious that they had been duped, and threatened to get nasty. Cruciani's father, Ferruccio, was extremely worried, and tried to get back some of the uncashed cheques which his son had handed out to various players. In the meantime, the family began to receive threats and one of their vegetable lorries was burnt.

 At this point, Ferruccio Cruciani went to the authorities. He had taped some of his phone calls with players and had copies of cheques. Meanwhile, Trinca and Cruciani hired a lawyer, Goffredo Giorgi (who apparently knew 'nothing' about football), and told him their story. Giorgi placed an article in the Rome paper Messaggero, which led to frantic phone calls from various players to Cruciani. Giorgi then met with football federation president Artemio Franchi, whom Brian Glanville later described as 'a man who prefers to be honest'. Giorgi told Franchi that his clients - Trinca and Cruciani - had lost a billion lire 'thanks to certain players'. If something was not done to put things right, they would go to the police. Franchi said he would do his best to sort things out. However, no money was forthcoming. The blackmail and veiled threats had not worked. At that point, a national scandal was inevitable all attempts at a cover-up and a deal having failed. On 1 March, Cruciani and Trinca drove up to the Rome law courts in a black Renault. Later, they went to the offices of the Rome sports daily, the Corriere dello Sport. The paper sat on their scoop until Monday. Under the 1948 Italian constitution, magistrates are obliged to investigate any crime about which they are informed, so a case had to be opened, once Cruciani and Trinca had pressed charges. Their statements were detailed, and they named names, but they kept some information back. There was quite a lot of proof to back up their claims - photocopies of cheques, bank records and phone taps.

The legal situation was not so straightfoward, however. Cruciani and Trinca had tried to defraud a series of (illegal) bookmakers and had themselves in turn been ripped off by a number of (dishonest) players. This was clearly a massive scandal - but only because other people had also been defrauded - fans, 'normal' punters, journalists, other teams -  not Cruciani and Trinca. The chances of a successful prosecution were slim. What kind of court would see Cruciani and Trinca as victims of fraud? The very idea was slightly ridiculous. Moreover, the crime of 'illicit sporting activity' or cheating in sport did not exist at that time on the statute book {it was only added in 1989), so match-fixing was not, in itself, against Italian law. After going to the police, Cruciani and Trinca fled Rome for a few days, but on 7 March, the restaurant owner was arrested. Five days later, Cruciani gave himself up. Both now told the police almost everything they knew. Cruciani was particularly detailed, so much so that his interrogator dubbed him 'the clock' for his precision. Soon, news began to trickle out - first on television and then in the press. In Italy it is common for the details of judicial investigations - including phone tap transcriptions - to be leaked. The story was huge international news. Some players panicked, calling Cruciani (whose phone was now under police control) or producing absurd stories to justify cheques they had received from the vegetable man. Meanwhile, the tax police prepared themselves for match day.

The police operation was perfectly timed - and stretched across six Italian cities. The idea was to prevent the players from agreeing their story. One thing you can be sure of with professional footballers - they will be in a certain place at a certain time, during the season. On Sunday 23 March 1980, at half-time, the eleven players and other officials due to be arrested were all on the pitch, or in their respective dressing rooms, or in the stands. At the agreed time, the police, tax police (a militarized body in Italy) and carabinieri stepped in. Milan were losing 2-0 to Torino at home when the entrance to their dressing room was blocked. Two players - Ricky Albertosi (40 years old by then, goalkeeper and World Cup finalist with Italy in 1970), and Giorgio Morini (who was arrested in the changing room after being substituted) - were picked up, as well as club president Felice Colombo. All were placed under arrest and driven away. At Palermo injured club captain Guido Magherini was arrested in the stands, and 'handcuffed like a criminal'. At Pescara, Avellino player Stefano Pellegrini left the field after somebody told him what was going on. When he reached the dressing room, he found a colonel and a deputy-police-chief waiting for him. At the end of the game in Rome, it was the turn of Italian nationals Bruno Giordano and Pino Wilson, who were allowed to shower first, whilst the injured Lionello Man-fredonia was identified in the stands. All of the arrestees were taken to Rome's crumbling Regina Coeli prison. A number of other players were 'asked to appear' in front of investigating magistrates. The shock news was the presence on the list of centre-forward Paolo Rossi, the Golden Boy of Italian football and the linchpin of the national team's attack. Special editions of sports programmes reported from all the grounds. The news made all the front pages the next day.

Soon, the players started to confess, at least in part. Morini admitted that he had taken money to Cruciani, but said that his role was limited to that of a 'postman'. Milan's president Felice Colombo came clean: 'Albertosi offered me a deal before a game with Lazio. I said no, but after we had won I agreed to pay Cruciani twenty million lire.' This account convinced nobody. The Gazzetta dello Sport led with the headline: 'Colombo confesses: Milan are in deep trouble'. Albertosi admitted that he had asked Colombo about the payments, and added that the money had been given to Morini to take to Rome. Massimo Cacciatori - Lazio's goalkeeper - also confessed that he had received a cheque for fifteen million lire from his captain, Pino Wilson. In prison, the newspapers claimed, Wilson and Giordano were given 'special cells with toilets' (this turned out to be untrue) and spent their time playing football, reading the papers and preparing their defence. Other prisoners joked with them after Lazio won the following Sunday: 'They don't need you any more'. The players and Colombo were all released together, eleven days later, on bail. As they emerged, blinking, from the prison gates they were met by hundreds of photographers, camera-opera tors, journalists and onlookers. Cruciani was also in the same prison, and at one point was threatened by a group of prisoner-fans. On the following Sunday, Giordano and Manfredonia - who had been suspended from playing, like all the arrested players - went to watch Lazio from the stands. 

They were virtually ignored by the fans. At Genoa, goalkeeper Girardi was applauded. The role of the Golden Boy was a controversial one. Cruciani claimed that he had given Paolo Rossi a minuscule two million lire. The striker, allegedly, was happy to agree on a draw (the game was Aveflino-Perugia) but wanted to score, so 0-0 was no good. The game finished 2-2, Rossi scored twice and he has always denied al] charges, saying that he had only briefly met Cruciani - for 'two minutes'. The evidence in the Rossi case was certainly weaker than that against many of the other players, and some have later claimed - including Rossi himself- that his name was used to scare off the others." On 24 April, a month after the arrests, Rome's chief prosecutor charged 38 people (33 of whom were players), including the two failed fixers, Trinca and Cruciani. The accusation was the same for everyone -aggravated fraud. The same day, the charges also came in from the 'sporting judge', De Biase. Twenty-one people were accused of various sporting crimes, as well as all the clubs. Milan were in most trouble, given the role of their president, whilst all the other nine teams faced a lesser charge of 'objective responsibility'. A week later, De Biase dropped a bombshell - charging both Bologna and Juventus.

Sporting justice was far harsher than the criminal courts. The sporting sentences, confirmed on appeal, were swingeing. Lazio and Milan were sent down to Serie B. Fifty years of bans were applied and 25 points removed from various clubs. President Colombo received a life ban and Albertosi got four years (stubbornly, he later came back to play in Serie C at the age of 44). The whistle-blower Montesi also received a short ban, for failing to inform the authorities of the match-fixing plan. He was ostracized by his colleagues and his career petered out in the provinces. For most of the players banned, the sentences effectively ended their careers - only Bruno Giordano, Paolo Rossi and Lionello Manfredonia played on with any sort of success. Some of these sentences were later modified in time for the 1982 World Cup, especially that of Rossi - who was thus able to take part in that tournament, and played a key part in Italy's victory. Meanwhile, the state trial started in June in Rome (with Rossi and Giordano both excluded from the national team in the European Championships, held that year in Italy). In December, all of the accused were acquitted, despite that fact that the public prosecutor had asked for a total of 42 years in prison, with a maximum of 30 months for Cruciani, Trinca and Magherini. In 1980, as we have seen, Italian law did not provide for 'sporting fraud', a crime only introduced to the statute book in 1986 and modified in 1989. Thus, it seemed, no crime had been committed. Were those involved in the Totonero scandal ostracized? Far from it. Paolo Rossi went on to become a national hero in the 1982 World Cup, and other players had successful careers. Bruno Giordano became a manager and TV commentator. The affair seemed closed, but of course, it wasn't. Many questions were left unanswered, and many players continued, and continue, to protest their innocence. In 2004, when yet another betting scandal emerged, Giordano said that 'nobody has ever apologized to me for what happened in 1980'. Only Petrini and, to a lesser extent, Wilson have shown any remorse for what happened.

One game was mysteriously excluded from the Totonero sentences -both sporting and criminal. It has been claimed that this 'exclusion' was due to the influence of the most powerful of all Italian clubs. Carlo Petrini played in the game in question, which saw Bologna at home against Juventus. The date was 13 January 1980, two months before the arrests across Italy. Petrini claims that well before the game, the sporting director of Bologna called the team into the dressing room and told them that they had 'agreed on a draw'. Nobody said anything. Again, according to Petrini (who has never received a libel writ), once the sporting director had left, a club official suggested that they bet on the match. Everyone chipped in and the illegal bet was placed. Petrini alleges that the agreement was confirmed in the players' tunnel. Now, Petrini was something of an expert in fixed games. According to his book, an agreed draw would normally end 0-0. But, on the pitch, things go wrong - you can score by mistake, for example. To avoid such 'mistakes', Petrini wrote that in a fixed game as a forward he would usually 'shoot from long range', or try 'impossible tricks'. In this game, nobody really tried to score, and the first half passed without incident. After just ten minutes of the second half, however, disaster struck. An innocuous shot by Juventus forward Causio slipped under the Bologna keeper's grasp. Nobody celebrated. Now Bologna would have to score. For a time, it appeared as if the agreement had 'been broken' mid-match, and arguments broke out on the field. Then Brio scored in his own net, and everybody calmed down again. According to Petrini, Cruciani was paid off by Juventus, who thereby managed to avoid punishment. Bologna were caught up in other fixed matches, and docked five points, and Petrini was banned for three years. Juventus slipped out of the investigation.

One thing which everybody agreed on was this. Such things should never be allowed to happen again. But this optimism was misplaced. The Italian league was rocked by another gambling scandal in 1986,9 and a series of other similar - if less serious - scandals throughout the 1990s, culminating in a further investigation in 2004. Even the mass arrests and bans of 1980 had not worked. Illegal betting and match-fixing were endemic in the Italian game. What was really frightening was this. How many times had they got away with it? How many games had been fixed without charges being brought? How rotten was calcio, and how far back did the disease stretch? 1980 was not a watershed. It was the first - and perhaps the only - serious attempt to deal with the dark heart of Italian football. Calcio was not cleaned up. Scandals of all kinds continued to plague the game.

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