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Thursday, May 31, 2012

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Under the microscope: Italian players, headed by Leonardo Bonucci, train in Parma, Italy, on Monday. AP

Italian Premier Monti calls for soccer suspension


ROME — Premier Mario Monti suggested Tuesday that Italian soccer be suspended for two to three years after the latest match-fixing scandal rocked the national team and again tarnished the sport's image in the country just a week before the European Championship.

Dawn raids on Monday resulted in 14 arrests — including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri — to bring the total number of suspects arrested in the match-fixing inquiry to about 50 since last year. Many more have been placed under investigation.

"Football should be stopped for two to three years," Monti said on Tuesday in a powerful message to Italy's soccer authorities on the need to clean up the game. "It is not a proposal by the government but a question I am asking as someone who was passionate when football was still football."

Monti made the comments while standing beside the prime minister of Poland, which is co-hosting Euro 2012 with Ukraine starting June 8.

"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," he said.

He also ruled out the use of public money to bail out teams in difficulty.

Police swept through the Italian national squad's training camp near Florence on Monday as part of the operation and Italy defender Domenico Criscito was left off the Euro 2012 squad after he was placed under investigation.

Antonio Conte, who coached Juventus to the Serie A title this term, was also officially notified that he is under investigation for alleged wrongdoing while in charge of Siena in 2010-2011.

Apart from those arrested Monday, three people have been placed under house arrest and two others are to present themselves to authorities. Five of the arrests were made in Hungary.

Numerous others have had their houses searched, including Chievo Verona striker Sergio Pellissier as well as Conte and Criscito.

The investigation was started by judicial authorities in Cremona last year. It has resulted in former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni being banned from soccer for 3½ years, and the arrest of former Lazio captain Giuseppe Signori.

Serie A clubs Atalanta, Novara and Siena were among the 22 Italian teams notified at the beginning of this month that they are being investigated by sports authorities.

Prosecutors in Cremona have detailed an extensive match-fixing ring stretching as far as Singapore and South America that was allegedly in operation for more than 10 years.

Italy has only recently recovered from the 2006 match-fixing scandal — known as Calciopoli — that resulted in Juventus being relegated to Serie B for a season, plus points penalties for several other Serie A teams and long bans for club and refereeing officials.

The Italian national team reacted in the best possible way, winning the World Cup that year.

Bonucci makes squad


PARMA, Italy — Defender Andrea Ranocchia and striker Mattia Destro were cut from Italy's final 23-man squad for the European Championship on Tuesday, while defender Leonardo Bonucci was included despite reportedly being under investigation for match-fixing.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli trimmed his provisional squad from 32 to 25 on Monday. One of the players axed was Zenit St. Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito, who was officially placed under investigation for possible match-fixing when he played at Genoa.

"It was very painful on a human level to remove Criscito from the group," Prandelli said. "But we couldn't give him the pressure of taking this story around Europe, we wanted to protect him. He immediately told me he had nothing to do with it and we believe in 'Mimmo.'

"The most annoying thing is that some people have put Bonucci's case together with Criscito's. I repeat, Bonucci has not received any official notification from the prosecutors. That's why he's coming with us to the Euros. We all want to play, to win. And to come out of it clean."

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