Notes on another scandal: Why Italy is prone to fixing

JERÉ LONGMAN

Football in Italy is not unlike driving. Laws are treated merely as suggestions.

The European Championships start Friday, and Italy is enmeshed in another match-fixing scandal. About 50 people have been arrested in the past year. Twenty-two club teams at upper and lower levels are being examined for impropriety. The police searched the national team's training camp last week. Defender Domenico Criscito was removed from the squad. Antonio Conte, the coach of Juventus, the champion of Serie A, the top Italian league, is also under investigation.

This follows another match-fixing scandal in 2006, known as Calciopoli, which left Juventus stripped of two Serie A titles and demoted temporarily to Serie B. That year, Italy won its fourth World Cup title amid the scandal. But the latest indignity feels worse, more shocking, midfielder Daniele De Rossi told reporters, saying, "We're going to the Euros with a stain on us."

Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister, suggested that football be suspended in the country for two or three years. Cesare Prandelli, Italy's national coach, said that he would not object if the Azzurri withdrew from Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine for the good of the game. Neither seems likely to happen. But there is a grave sense that termites have eaten away the foundation. And not only in Italy.

"It makes me very sad," Andriy Shevchenko, the star Ukrainian and former Milan forward said. Is there something in the culture that makes Italian football vulnerable? "It's difficult to judge," Shevchenko said. "Italy has such a rich history of soccer. But with all the scandals, it loses a lot."

This season, Italian soccer experienced a kind of revival. The 2006 scandal seemed to finally be in the rearview mirror. Now, it is again covered in scandal like Venetian tourists covered by pigeons in St. Mark's Square.

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