ROME: Italian football is being dragged through the mud once again as four leading Serie A teams are being investigated over match-rigging allegations.
If any eyebrows were being raised on Friday as the full scope of the gambling and match-fixing scandal unfolded, they should only have done so out of surprise that it has taken so long for another such huge fiasco to come to light.
Italian football has been riddled with match-fixing and payments to referees for years while the country's football authorities have only occasionally managed to clamp down on the perpetrators.
Only last season, in the most recent scandal, Serie B champions Genoa were demoted to Serie C1 after needlessly fixing their final game of the season against the already relegated and hapless Venezia.
Given Venezia had been relegated for weeks and Genoa had topped the standings all season, quite why Genoa president Enrico Preziosi felt the need to fix the match is mind-boggling.
But so he did and three days after Genoa won 3-2, player's agent Giuseppe Pagliara was caught leaving the offices of Preziosi's company, Italy's largest toy manufacturer, with 250,000 euros (US$320,000) in a suitcase.
Pagliara's client Vicente had put Venezia ahead in the 22nd minute at which point the Venice club's managing director Franco Dal Cin rang Pagliara saying: What the hell's going on? What are they doing? They scored ... Are they out of their minds?
Pagliara replied: You know Vicente, that's the way he is, but there's plenty of time for them to equalise.
Genoa's relegation did not hit too many headlines worldwide due to the offence taking place in the lower leagues but Serie A has had its fair share of scandals as well over the last 26 years.
In 1986, points were deducted from Udinese, Lazio, Foggia, Palermo, Triestina and Cagliari for their involvement in match-fixing.
In 2000, a fixed match between Atalanta and Pistoiese resulted in the arrests of several players, while two years ago Modena were deducted points and several players were given lengthy bans for the same offence.
But Italy's biggest scandal of all involved World Cup hero Paolo Rossi.
In 1980, AC Milan president Felice Colombo and players from Lazio, Avellino, Perugia, Genoa (again) and Lecce were arrested for match-fixing that took place over the two preceding years.
Rossi was one of those caught up in the furore after a match drawn 2-2 between his team Perugia and Avellino in December 1978.
Rossi said during the game to an opposing player: 2-2? If you want. He was subsequently banned for three years, which was later commuted to two on appeal, allowing him to compete in the 1982 World Cup.
Rossi made his comeback just before the Finals in Spain and finished the tournament as top scorer as Italy carried off the title.
But that scandal saw both AC Milan and Lazio relegated from Serie A for their part. AFP