Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Italy's win: 'diving', corruption and conspiracies

Italy's man of the moment Fabio Grosso insists he didn't take a dive to earn the penalty that ousted Australia from the World Cup. Australians were stunned when Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo pointed to the penalty spot after Grosso tumbled over prone Socceroos defender Lucas Neill in the final seconds. The penalty converted by Francesco Totti gave Italy a 1-0 win and a place in the quarter-finals.

Most media described the decision as "controversial" at least. Even Grosso's team mate Gennaro Gattuso reportedly confessed that "The referee made a mistake" which, he innocently assumed, made up for the ejection of team mate Marco Materazzi with a straight red card 40 minutes earlier.

Accusations of the Italian national side winning by 'diving' has added an extra unpleasantness to the corruption stigma Italian football is currently bearing due to the inquiry into alleged match-fixing by Serie A clubs Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Reggina, Siena and Empoli and Serie B sides Messina, Lecce and Arezzo nd scores of officials, referees and linesmen.

However, a truley bizarre accusation has surfaced in the usually authoritative LA Times (USA). Its controversial soccer writer, Grahame L Jones, has accused the world football body, FIFA, of manipulating football's highest level, including the outcome of games:

"The seed for Australia's 1-0 World Cup defeat by Italy on Monday on a blatantly incorrect penalty kick ... was sown in South Korea four years ago," he wrote. "That's when Italy was robbed blind in a 2-1 overtime loss to South Korea in a second-round World Cup game that was atrociously refereed by Ecuador's Byron Moreno ... The loss eliminated the Italians and — much to the delight of soccer's movers and shakers — sent cohost South Korea on a run that took it to the semifinals and an eventual fourth-place finish. Given the massive public support for the team, keeping South Korea alive as long as possible was very much in FIFA's interests. So Italy paid the price.

"This time around, the price has been paid back. Things are all square with Italy. Australia will get the makeup call next time around, at South Africa in 2010, assuming it qualifies. That's how it works. It's about making hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and television contracts. Fat cats greasing fat cats. It's not really about sport or sportsmanship. Only the naïve believe that ..."

Read the whole article. "Honest," he concludes, "You can't make up this stuff. Only FIFA has that talent ..."

See also: Europeans shaken by Italian corruption allegations (18 May)

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