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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Juventus coach implicated in match-fixing scandal


PARMA, Italy — The match-fixing scandal that has rocked Italian soccer during the past year implicated the coach of Serie A champion Juventus on Monday and ensured at least one player won't be at the European Championship.

News photo
Caught in the net: Juventus manager Antonio Conte is under investigation in a match-fixing probe in Italy surrounding his time as coach of Serie A side Siena. AP

Police swept through the Italian national squad's training camp near Florence as part of a wide-ranging investigation into fixing that resulted in 14 arrests — including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri — to bring the total number arrested to about 50 since last year.

The Italian soccer federation later said Juventus coach Antonio Conte is under investigation for alleged wrongdoing while in charge of Siena in 2010-2011, and announced the withdrawal of defender Domenico Criscito from the Euro 2012 squad a day before the player lists have to be submitted to UEFA.

"He would have experienced a pressure that no human being can deal with," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said of Criscito playing at the June 8 to July 1 tournament. "He wouldn't have been in the right frame of mind. And he could also have been called up by the prosecutors at any time, before a match.

"It was a peculiar day. My first reaction was one of fear: 'Oh my God, what can we do.' But then you have to find something positive out of this situation, such as if it had happened four days later it would have been a lot worse."

Two police cars arrived at the national team's training site at about 6:25 a.m. local time and left nearly three hours later. Criscito's house in Genoa was searched, while Conte's place in Turin was also raided.

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said Conte would remain in charge and lent his support to Leonardo Bonucci, the Juve defender who is also reportedly under investigation but remains with Italy's squad.

Conte denied any wrongdoing.

"My story speaks clearly for itself," he said. "I've always showed moral integrity, honesty, fairness in every situation, whether as a player or a coach. I am completely innocent of any of this, as are my players.

"With Siena we won the (second-division) title with three games to go, thanks to a lot of sacrifice, sweat, tears and joy, with a group of extraordinary lads."

Siena president Massimo Mezzaroma is also under investigation, and Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino said the club is at the center of the investigation.

"There are seven, eight games being looked at and there have been statements that make us think they were manipulated," Di Martino said.

Former Italy striker Christian Vieri, who retired in 2009, is also among those under investigation, while Inter Milan's match against Lecce in 2001 is being examined.

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