Italian Head Coach Cesare Prandelli has dropped a bombshell that indicates just how serious the match fixing scandal has become in Italy.
Questioned about Italy’s continued participation in EURO2012, he told Italian Television station RAI Sport:
“If you told us for the good of football we should not participate, it wouldn’t be a problem for me. There are things that I believe are more important. I dislike crusades. I prefer to face up to things and not take positions without considering the consequences.”
The remarks follow a comment from the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti who called for the halt of Italian domestic football for three years.
He said this week it might be better for football to take a break in the country until what appear to be deep-rooted problems with match-fixing are solved after Monday raids yielded 14 more arrests.
Standing besides the Prime Minister of host nation Poland Donald Tusk, Monti said:
“Football should be stopped for two to three years.
It is not a proposal by the government but a question I am asking as someone who was passionate when football was still football.
I’m not making a proposal, and even less is it a proposal that comes from the government, but it’s a desire that sometimes I feel inside me: that it would really benefit the maturity of us Italian citizens if this game was completely suspended for two to three years.”
Prandelli’s preparation for the tournament in Poland/Ukraine has already been disrupted by the growing scandal. Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito was dropped from the squad after he was questioned by police while in Italy’s training camp.
Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci has also been placed under investigation but remains in the Italy squad for now.
Lazio captain Stefano Mauri has been arrested. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s lawyer Marco Valerio Corini has been forced to publicly defend his client amid an increasing rumour mill.
Previously confined to the lower divisions, the scandal began to spread to Serie A. Bergamo side Atalanta who were promoted from Serie B, were deducted six points in the top division this season as a result of the scandal.
Should Italy withdraw, it may mean a surprise call up for Estonia who finished second in Group C with 16 points.
There is a precedent for this.
In 1992, the Balkan war raged with evidence of human rights atrocities committed by Serb Irregulars called Chetniks, aided by the Yugoslav National Army, appearing nightly on European news programs.
Although the country was by then rapidly disintegrating, Yugoslavia had qualified for the tournament before the violence began.
Under public and political pressure, UEFA threw the Yugoslavs out of the tournament and invited Denmark to take their place in the finals in next door Sweden. Denmark went on to win the EURO 92 despite a total lack of preparation. They beat a German side including USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the final.
Italy are in Group C with the Republic of Ireland, Spain and Croatia.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain).
Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Antonio Nocerino (Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus).
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Fabio Borini (Roma), Antonio Cassano (Milan), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma).