Soccer Watch

The Italian match-fixing scandal and more

Last week's column got lost in the e-mail ether; sorry. See "Soccer Watch Online" for more, but the newsy part was:

Bruce Arena's out as U.S. national team coach, and

The Italian match-fixing scandal verdict came in: four teams punished, three demoted to the second division.

Well, not so fast on that second item. In the wake of appeals filed Wednesday, heard Saturday, and decided this Tuesday, penalties against all four teams have been slashed. As it now stands, Lazio and Fiorentina are reinstated to Serie A, albeit with 11- and 19-point deductions in next season's standings. AC Milan's point deduction is cut from 15 to 8, and they're cleared to compete in this season's Champions League. Only Juventus would be demoted to Serie B, along with forfeiting the last two league titles; but their 30-point penalty is reduced to 17, giving them a shot at regaining Serie A after just one season down.

Of course, all four clubs immediately announced that they'll file further appeals. Juventus club president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli swore on the team Web site that "we will take our appeal to every possible court. I can assure you that we will not stop until justice has been done in the interests of our extraordinary fans, our shareholders, of the club, and of course of the championship."

Justice all'Italiana – it's truly a thing of exquisite beauty: gloriously choreographed, with thundering operatic bluster and dramatic posturing, mixed with baroque gentility, and minutiae argued in such convolutions that no one really knows what's being contested any more. And in the end, they decide to let bygones be bygones, and everyone goes home happy. Bellissima. To me, one more appeal sounds about right: Water down the sentences about in half again, to where they're just barely meaningless; maybe Juve still has to go down to B for a year, but they'll get their championships back (because, after all, the past matters far more than the future), and everything is sistemato – "systemized," as they call it. Campioni del Mondo!

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