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Italian credibility at risk as overhaul begins

Written by: Staff
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MILAN, May 17 (Reuters) Italians used to boast their Serie A league was ''the most beautiful championship in the world''. Now it has become a national embarrassment.

While fans across Europe prepared for the season's showpiece game, today's Champions League final, in Italy the talk was of magistrates not midfielders and telephone taps not tackles.

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti had hoped to be in Paris for the final. Yesterday, the man whose team lost to Barcelona in the semi-finals was instead at a Rome police station talking to public prosecutors.

Ancelotti is not under investigation in Italy's probe into allegations of match-fixing, which was prompted by the publication of telephone taps, although 41 others including club officials, referees and Football Federation functionaries are.

Luciano Moggi resigned as general manager of Juventus shortly after they won the league on Sunday. He is at the centre of the affair after transcripts of his conversations with top officials about refereeing appointments were made public.

Yesterday, Italy's Olympic committee ruled the Football Federation was no longer fit to run its own affairs and appointed Guido Rossi, a 75-year-old professor with no experience in football, as its emergency administrator.

The daily revelations in newspapers have confirmed many long-held suspicions.

''It is like a lover who has suffered from jealousy and then realises that what he had thought all along turned out to be true,'' said Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti.

Moratti has long complained about referees favouring Juventus during a decade when he invested 0 million in players but failed to win the title.

''This is awful for anyone who has thrown away money, hope and passion. For myself, but also for the fans,'' he said.

UNENVIABLE TASK Rossi, the man charged with curing the sickness at the heart of Italian football, faces an unenviable task.

The former head of the stock market regulator has to create new rules and regulations whilst simultaneously ensuring those responsible for the crisis are driven out of the game.

''Football, our sport, needs to regain credibility,'' said Gianni Petrucci, head of the Olympic committee.

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