Towards the end of 2011, Simone Farina, a Second Division soccer player in Italy, claimed that one of his teammates tried to convince him into accepting a bribe of 200.000 euros. His team was supposed to let the opponent win a match of the Italian Cup. The police arrested 17 people, five of which were professional players.
Behind the bribes stood a Singapore-based organization that placed bets of up to 1.5 million euros for Italian league matches. The involvement of the mafia was also suspected.
Convinced that he remained loyal to his duty, Farina considered an exaggeration that the media depicted him as a hero and rejected an offer by the Italian Federation to train with the national time as a “reward” for his conduct. His story demanded a “happy ending” before everything was forgotten and things returned to “normality”: League, Cup and Champions League. More bread and circus that the European peoples devour as a distraction from so many cuts and the shock of not having Statesmen to lead a way out of this economic crisis.
Six months later, Italian football returns to the epicentre of scandal, with high level professionals and the head coach of Turin’s Juventus, one of the most renowned teams in Italy and Europe, involved in a plot of fixed matches to the benefit of betting organizations. Some years ago, Turin’s team descended to the second division as a penalty for the same reasons and other teams, Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan among them, only had points taken away in the championship.
In the middle of the shock produced by the investigations, some players have demanded presumption of innocence for their fellow players. Gianluigi Buffon insisted that Primer Minister Mario Monti’s proposal of suspending the tournament for three years lacked sense because it would “punish” the 85% of players that conduct themselves by ethical principles. The international goalkeeper complained of the leaks to journalists, who waited with their cameras outside of the hotel where the national team’s players stayed, even before the police officers arrived to take away one of the players involved.
The same media that idolize players and coaches now pull the trigger against them. But since the moment when Farina reported the efforts to bribe him, few of them have promoted debates that go into the causes in depth and talk about the betting business. The possible involvement of mafias and the organized crime block the journalistic endeavour, but there are numerous examples of journalists who risk their lives in violence-stricken countries.
InEuropealone, “sporting” bets generate more than 10.000 euros every year. The BWIN letters on Real Madrid’s jerseys belong to one of those businesses, which sponsors the Spanish team for more than 15 million euros each year. Users have found a way to obtain easy money and companies dedicated to this business are based in tax havens to increase their benefits.
Instead of repeating “news” about the intimate lives of players and their so-many-times empty statements, the media could keep their audiences other contents. There are debates missing of the impact of these amounts of money on the fairness of a sport played by the sons, nephews or grandchildren of any sport-loving fan. Instead of accusing referees of favouringBarcelonaor Real Madrid, they could focus on the danger referees face as aims of mafias related to bets, because of the weight their decisions have on the results that determine this business.
FIFA and its members haven’t been able or brave enough to scare away these threats to the essence of a sport, like that of many others, that inspires hundreds of millions of children in their everyday life. It makes no sense to teach them lessons of ethics, fair play, comradeship, being a good winner or loser and honesty at school so that, when they sit in front of the television at home, they see their heroes fall in disgrace for lacking those same values.
Carlos Miguélez Monroy
Journalist, editor at Centro de Colaboraciones Solidarias (CCS)