clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

In Questo Mondo di Ladri: Drewsef’s Scattered Thoughts on Calciopoli

New, comments

Calciopoli

Now, by popular demand, I give you a post by a long-time reader/commentator on this blog, Drewsef. I know I said that I wont write about Calciopoli - it is too near to religion or politics and I dont like the pointless arguments that ensue. Even so, I am more than willing to post your views on the subject. Drewsef joked with me that this post would bring the trolls and make my regular readers hate him. While that may be true, I ask that you actually read the post before comment. Then, when you do comment, please be civil. Oh, and just be aware, this is Drewsef’s opinion and his alone. That is, the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the management (ie, me). -- Johonna.



Throughout history, Italian football has been known as a world of bandits. Now that Moggi has been banned it won’t be any cleaner, and Moggi will leave scars too. -- Marco Travaglio, 2006

“Do you know the story of the monkeys of the shitty island?” I asked Noboru Wataya.
He shook his head, with no sign of interest. “Never heard of it.”

“Somewhere, far, far away, there’s a shitty island. An island without a name. An island not worth giving a name. A shitty island with a shitty shape. On this shitty island grow palm trees that also have shitty shapes. And the palm trees produce coconuts that give off a shitty smell. Shitty monkeys live in the trees, and they love to eat these shitty-smelling coconuts, after which they shit the world’s foulest shit. The shit falls on the ground and builds up shitty mounds, making the shitty palm trees that grow on them even shittier. It’s an endless cycle.”

I drank the rest of my coffee.

“As I sat here looking at you,” I continued, “I suddenly remembered the story of this shitty island. What I’m trying to say is this: A certain kind of shittiness, a certain kind of stagnation, a certain kind of darkness, goes on propagating itself with its own power in its own self-contained cycle. And once it passes a certain point, no one can stop it - even if the person himself wants to stop it.”
-- Haruki Murakami

Ah, Calciopoli. I didn’t like it the first time, and I fucking hate it now. In fact, I blame it for ruining my vacation.

I didn’t even notice when this renewed brouhaha broke, as I was on a long-needed restorative vacation until last week. I got home feeling refreshed, flipped open my laptop, and immediately felt exhausted all over again. If Palazzi’s brief is really to be the final dénouement of the whole endless saga, it would be an appropriate symbol of the frustrating futility of the affair: a 72-page document slinging allegations against a dead man for violations on which the statute of limitations has expired. Great, that’s helpful. Next up, perhaps we can get to the bottom of the Russian linesman scandal.

Which is not to say that the Palazzi’s brief isn’t important, and disturbing. Even if the legal ramifications are zero, it’s vitally necessary to have some sort of closure to the affair, as Calciopoli was one of the most traumatic events in the history of calcio, right behind the Superga and Heysel disasters. And yet while those tragedies served to remind Serie A that some things are far more important than petty rivalries, Calciopoli has had the exact opposite effect, elevating those petty rivalries to the level of ethnic hatreds.

So now, after an investigation that lasted longer than the entire reign of Julius Caesar, we learn that not only are we less than blameless in the scandal, but we could have been relegated (along with Milan, Livorno and God knows who else [1]). If Palazzi had his way (I mean, his way as of now, not his way as of 2006, when he advised the exact opposite, or his way as of five years from now, when I’m sure even more new evidence will come out), Serie A could have been a much different place. Milan wouldn’t have won the Champions League, and Ambrosini would have had no parade from which to display his charming message of friendship. We would be two Scudetti lighter, having never known the thrill of seeing Patrick Vieira land elbows and misplace passes in nerazzurri. Livorno would have mercifully gone straight down without all that UEFA qualification stuff to cruelly get their hopes up. In cheerier news, Serie B would have been one of the best leagues in the world.

Ambrosini_banner
Ambosini's message of love: "The scudetto, shove it up your ass"

Plus, we would not have been awarded the 05/06 Scudetto. This lead to some speculation that it would be stripped from us, speculation that, like so much else in this story, came to nothing yesterday morning when the FIGC admitted they had no recourse to do so. It’s always important to bring the truth out into the open, but in this case it was about as useful as the Oscars admitting that “Goodfellas” really should’ve won the 1990 best picture instead of “Dances With Wolves.”

In a way, Moggi’s subsequent joy at Palazzi’s filing provides a nice little glimpse into his twisted ethical universe. Nothing in here exonerates him from any wrongdoing, it doesn’t clear his name, it doesn’t give him a moral imperative for the things he’s done, it just spreads the condemnation around. If you threw Moggi out of a plane and he managed to drag you out with him, he’d be celebrating his triumph the whole way down. Then again, Moggi’s argument has long been that either everyone is guilty, or no one is, since the official reason for his and Juve’s downfall was the exclusivity of his relationships with officials. More than that, unlike Juve, we stand accused of both Article 1 and Article 6 violations – the case against Juve involved such a multiplicity of Article 1 violations that they mixed them all together, baked at 400 degrees for a few minutes, and came out with a nice, warm, Article 6. Legally, the distinction between the two is important. But the ethical distinctions are far less clear-cut: Even if everyone is guilty, some people are more guilty than others.

The notion that Moggi’s dirty dealings were less serious than those of Inter, Milan and Livorno seems fundamentally flawed to me [2]. The process of rolling a bunch of Article 1s into an Article 6 had never been done before, but then, calcio had never seen a man like Luciano Moggi before. The sinister genius of Moggi’s system was that his network of contacts and sycophants had become so large and well maintained that he never had to bribe anyone, or threaten anyone, or even specifically ask for anything that could later prove incriminating of a large-scale fraud. Moggi had his circle, that circle was a very good thing to be a part of, and people seemed to generally understand what they had to do to stay there.

And make no mistake, Moggi had a circle. Back in 2002, I had friends who were Juve fans [3], and even they used to joke about Juve’s incredible luck with certain calls and rulings. It wasn’t just in our imaginations, something was definitely going on, and it’s not coincidental that such a large number of Facchetti’s recorded calls consist of complaints over calls made in Juve’s favor. One assumes that’s why the phone calls started in the first place.

We’ll probably never know for how long, and to what extent, this corruption went -- let’s remember, everything we know about the scandal we’ve learned from taped phone calls, which only go so far back, and presumably similar or worse conversations also took place face-to-face – and this is one of the many reasons that all Calciopoli-related conversation gets sucked down a logical and ethical vortex. Twisting an oft-quoted Lenin axiom, Juve fans reason that since Inter benefited most from the whole mess, we bear the brunt of the guilt. Of course, when applied to the compromised seasons that went beforehand, that logic blows up in their faces -- Inter certainly benefitted the most from Calciopoli, but Juve sure as hell benefitted the most from the system it was intended to correct. Juve can also point to the Telecom connections and the laughably large Inter-loving contingent in charge of the 2006 proceedings as proof that the whole thing was a sham -- a notable bit of circumstantial evidence, but not actual proof of anything. But then, if we’re throwing conjecture and circumstantial evidence into the mix, then Inter fans get to bring up the SIM cards and GEA...we could play this game all day.

But all of this is just prelude to the difficult thoughts I’ve been having, which is that we might need to come to terms with the idea that Massimo Moratti might be an asshole.

___________________________

Here’s a little psychological experiment:

Say you’re in a calculus class your senior year of college, which is graded on a curve, and your longtime hated academic rival – let’s call her Lucy M. – is in the class as well. Lucy has been the bane of your entire collegiate existence, as no matter how hard you work, Lucy always maintains her place at the top of the class. She gets internships and academic awards that you can’t manage, and at times the two of you seem to be competing on a different level.

Then you learn that she’s been using an online cheating network to learn possible questions for upcoming tests. You reason, “well, I’m never going to be able to compete if she’s doing it like this,” and start using the network – as do a number of your classmates. Then, shortly thereafter, Lucy is caught.

Now, you have three courses of action here. If you immediately stand up and admit that you used the system too, that would mean you’re either Jesus Christ or Gandhi. If you keep quiet, avert your eyes, and thank providence for this stroke of luck, that makes you a normal person, taking his breaks as they come. However, if you stand up – knowing that you’ve used this network as well – and say, “This is an outrage! She should be expelled immediately, and we honest students who never used the network should be given all of her ill-gotten academic awards,” then that makes you a hypocritical asshole.

_________________

GrazieJuve
Juve Tifo: "The ends justifies the means. Thank you triad"

Though no one would ever come out in defense of cheats, they do have a certain appeal. We describe them through cute little terms -- rascal, scallywag, charlatan -- and sometimes almost admire their moxie in finding novel ways to game the system. Odysseus, the Artful Dodger, Mack the Knife and Keith Talent are among the many cheats who have been favorably immortalized in fiction, and Silvio Berlusconi has spent three decades operating under the assumption that his limitless corruption, greed and perversity make him charming. (Sadly, he’s repeatedly been proven correct by the Italian electorate.) The self-righteous hypocrite, however, is a considerably less sympathetic figure.

And that’s why Moratti has become the most hated club owner in the league, which is incredible when you remember that’s a group that also includes Berlusconi and Zamparini. Whether he felt justified doing it or not, Moratti most likely knew that Inter had made contact with officials in an attempt to, however subtly, influence standings. Most likely, he did this himself. What’s particularly bad about Moratti’s current conduct is it actually leaves Facchetti in the lurch: if the Moggi-created climate lead to an atmosphere in which this sort of sweet-talking was the price of doing business, then he could admit that, and Facchetti’s phone calls would come to mean nothing. But Moratti long maintained that these sorts of calls amount to cheating, no matter what circumstances they may have been made under, and by that standard, Facchetti becomes a cheat.

Giacinto non si tocca
Inter Tifo: "Giacinto, dont touch!"

Moratti may still be correct in his claim that Inter were the victims of Moggi’s dealings, but his moral absolutism at the time has lead him into the difficult position of rationalizing behavior that he claimed was universally unpardonable.

So what should he do now? For one, Moratti should quit with the bluster and the bizarre fatwas against newspapers; it gives him a cornered animal vibe that does him no favors. Other than that, I have no answers. He could always give the 05/06 Scudetto back -- in fact, I think he should, just as he never should have accepted it in the first place -- but that probably won’t do much to ease the tensions, and Juve doesn’t deserve it either. Some (not entirely disinterested) parties have suggested that Inter waive the statute of limitations in order to clear its name in a full-on trial. Which is a novel idea, until you remember who would likely be presiding over that trial: the very people and ruling bodies who have thus far gotten almost every single element of the Calciopoli decisions completely wrong. The ruling body that once gave our players a ban for a “fight” that even the alleged victims claim never happened. The very body who caused so much of this mess by trying to make the matter go away as quickly as possible, and who would likely conduct a Calciopoli retrial in such a way that the original one would seem a paragon of Solomon-esque sobriety by comparison. So interesting idea, but also an immensely stupid one.

I, for one, just want to hear the truth from Moratti. We the fans have been lead to believe in our club's innocence: we sing about it, we display it proudly, we defend it against barroom instigators [4] and message-board trolls, and we allow our most morally upright player to defend it to the media. If Inter's involvement in contacting referee designators was designed to maintain parity in an inherently lopsided league, then that seems reasonable, so let him say that. If he decided to seize on the opportunity in a moment of avaricious weakness, I’d like to hear that. If things were more complicated than he’s previously described them to be, let him explain how. I do imagine that there’s an explanation here, and I imagine it involves moving the debate away from the black-and-white palate he’s invoked before into one that includes various shades of gray. Of course, anything Moratti says in this vein would all be just as much gasoline poured onto a smoldering flame, but I’d like to know where I stand as a fan.

Speaking of which, being a fan of anything -- of music, film, politics, but especially sports -- always requires a suspension of one’s natural cynicism in pursuit of a larger belief. When we got our first CL draw in 2010, the idea that we would go on to win the trophy seemed unreasonable, but we believed in it anyway. It’s what makes caring about a team so magical. But it can also blind one to the notion that one’s team could have its own flaws, and to excuse those flaws that would seem egregious from any other team. While a perpetually self-flagellating attitude gets us nowhere, nor is a “my club, right or wrong” notion a good one either. Should any of us be ashamed to be Inter fans? No. Are things as dire for us as our detractors have been so gleefully claiming? Definitely no. But is this a time to temper our faith and optimism with the knowledge that things aren’t quite as lily-white as we’ve believed, and as we’ve been lead to believe? Yes, I believe it is.

_____________________________________

There’s two real tragedies here. One is the fact that Calciopoli should have thrown the extraordinary corruption of Serie A out into the open. And according to what we’re seeing now, that corruption was close enough to universal that we can round it all the way up. The FIGC were right to expel Moggi from football, as he was a cancer on the game, but it’s hard to defend much else they did. Maybe they should have relegated everyone. Maybe they should have forgiven everyone and held Desmond Tutu-esque reconciliation hearings. Maybe they should have forced all club presidents and directors to sit in one of those carnival dunk-tanks for a day and let fans have at it. Whatever they did, they should have done something, anything, to actually try and clean up the mess that left two whole seasons null and void, and several season before that in question.

calciopoli

What have we learned from this? What has been the positive result? Has the self-perpetuating shit-cycle been halted? The Calciopoli trial broke the corruption of Serie A wide open, and yet there was really never a system put into place to prevent it from happening again. Crooked owners now know not to use the phone when fixing matches, I guess. Whether you think they were guilty or innocent [5], the relegation of Juve and a few assorted wrist slaps to other clubs shouldn’t have been the end of things, but it was for all practical purposes. And now as a result, every minor trade or bookkeeping irregularity is treated as though it might be the opening salvo of a new scandal. Just the other month we saw a fresh new scandal emerge that’s even crazier and dumber than anything that’s come before, and it doesn’t seem like it will be the last.

But the worst tragedy is that the seemingly universal dirtiness of the league has nothing to do with the two groups who should be the most important to it -- the players, and the fans. In the first half of the last decade, Serie A had more world-class players than at any point in its history, all playing at the top of their games. A squad drawn entirely from Serie A won the World Cup, and so many of their fiercest opponents in doing so were former or current Serie A players. We have some great YouTube highlights from the era in the league, but otherwise it feels like all those years were a waste. And then the fans, by which I mean all of us. Controversies, scandals and conspiracies are all par for course in Italian sport (maybe Italian culture in general – this is the country that gave us the mafia, Niccolo Machiavelli and Charles Ponzi after all), but I can’t help but wonder what Serie A supporters ever did to deserve all this. No one ever became a hard-core calcio fan due to their love of espionage, convoluted boardroom politics and shifting legalese. And yet that seems to be all we have to talk about.

No one likes the FIGC, and even fewer people like FIFA. But I think maybe we could all stand to dislike them a little more, and then to recall the fact that the people at the highest executive levels of the sport are no different from the people at the highest executive levels of any other industry. In many cases (increasing in number, especially in England), football clubs have become little more than massive vanity acquisitions for a number of very rich people of questionable ethics who’ve run out of yachts with which to impress their buddies. It’s not even unique to sport -- some of the greatest art in the world was only possible through the patronage of autocrats and robber-barons. But it’s sad that the people who have brought our league into this state of stasis and endless recriminations are the very people we should be able to do without. None of this is about doped-up players, or players on the take, or fans inciting violence. It’s all about guys in well-adorned offices, who can scheme and network and schmooze and dissemble to their hearts’ content, and we’ve somehow allowed ourselves to become their supporters. Juve fans chant Moggi’s name at games; we call our patron Papa Moratti. (To their credit, most Milan fans I know seem to regard Berlu as a necessary evil.) Moratti may be on our side, and we can and should get excited when he brings us shiny new players, but he’s still the guy in the office with the caviar and the friends in high places, and we’re mistaken to think of him as our friend. The players and fans shouldn’t be defending his honor; it should be the other way around.

voting
Break down of the Monday votes.

Thanks to this latest round of allegations, one of my most beloved players, Giacinto Facchetti, has seen his reputation as a bastion of fairness and honesty besmirched, and it’s worth looking at what that means. In his two decades at Inter and with the Azzurri, Facchetti gained a reputation as one of the most honorable men Italian football had ever seen. In 18 years, he only received a single red card -- which is truly extraordinary -- and earned the admiration of just about everyone, including hardcore Juventini. And then, in the couple years he served as Inter’s president, he somehow allegedly became a shifty double-dealer, willing to trade favors and mortgage his reputation to gain an advantage. If that actually is true, I think it says a lot more about the league than it does about the man.

___________________________
[1] Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing that a legitimate trial wouldn’t still have resulted in Juve’s relegation.

[2] I expect this note to be heavily refuted, so let me clarify: I’m not talking about the legal specifications currently on the table – which have been in flux for years and which I expect to continue to be in flux when I’m celebrating my granddaughter’s high school graduation – I’m talking exclusively about the ethics of the whole deal.

[3] Younger people don’t believe it, but there really was a time when Juve and Inter fans could actually be friends. For real, we would go out for drinks, talk, laugh, watch movies together and everything -- it actually happened!

[4]True story. I'm still amazed it didn't come to blows.

[5]I think it’s pretty clear where I stand.


Wow. Drewsef has really given us a lot to think about (with footnotes and everything). If any of you have a burning issue that is Inter related and you think it would make a great post, drop me a line at InterOffside@gmail.com and we will see about giving you some space. Oh, and full disclosure, I added the pictures and captions (but Drewsef said I could), so dont blame those on him.

Thanks again, Drewsef

FORZA INTER
.
.
.

Follow me and this blog on twitter: @InterOffside Be the first to receive the good Inter word.