Since my last post about how soccer is (and should be) getting big in America, another corruption scandal has hit Italian soccer. On Monday, police raided the Italian national team's training camp. The team was preparing for the European Championships (Euro Cup) beginning next week.
The police arrested Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and raided the home of Juventus skipper Antonio Conte. Lazio finished 4th in Italy's top division (Serie A) this past season, while Juventus won their 28th league title, or scudetto. The (rough) American equivalent would be if Rajon Rondo was arrested and Greg Popovich's house was raided (or something … I'll stop discussing soccer in terms of American sports at some point) right before the NBA finals. The number of arrests made in connection with this investigation, known as Operation Last Bet, is now upwards of 50.
Corruption is Italian soccer is not a novel concept: In 2006, the same Juventus was stripped of its Serie A title and relegated for its involvement in a match-fixing scandal. The scandal did not phase the Italians much; in fact, the national team went on to win the World Cup that same year.
The prime minister of Italy on Thursday called for a suspension of all soccer in the country for 3 years. That simply will not happen, but it is a noble attempt at curing a seemingly incurable problem. Perhaps it is an Italian cultural thing, but repeated corruption scandals can only hurt soccer generally, and the various football associations around the globe need to continue to be steadfast in their efforts to eradicate it.
One reason Americans don't like soccer (among many) is that they often think matches are fixed. Scandals like this certainly provide evidence of that. It is also the same reason many Americans (at least many of my friends) don't like the NBA. After the Tim Donaghy scandal, the NBA lost many fans because they felt the games weren't decided on the court, but rather by bookies off the court. (The current Heat-Celtics series and the recently-sold Hornets winning yesterday's draft lottery certainly didn't help in the court of public opinion, although I chalk that up to whiny Boston fans being whiny Boston fans and luck in the case of the Hornets … maybe I'm not cynical enough).
Unless soccer leagues around the world clean up the game's image, corruption will be just another reason why Americans do not embrace the beautiful game.
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