I am writing this because I am bitter. I am bitter about a league that has been diminished by corruption. I am bitter about the blatant disparity with which teams in Serie A are treated, specifically the exceptional favoritism shown to Juventus. There is a reason they are not-so-affectionately referred to as ‘Rubentus’ (rubare meaning ‘to steal’ in Italian).
Let’s talk about their match this past weekend against Roma, who happen to be my favorite team. Juventus won the matchup between the last two remaining undefeated and untied Serie A teams by a score of 3-2. Three penalties were awarded during the game, two of them to Juventus. The first Juventus penalty came on a handball called against Roma defender Maicon, who was defending an Andrea Pirlo free kick as part of the wall. Replays show two issues of contention. Firstly, Maicon’s hand is directly in front of his face at the moment of contact. Soccer rules define a handball as legitimately called when limbs are in unnatural (in soccer terms) places, i.e. you stick your arm out to the side. A little bit of sense is required here on the part of the referee. The ball would would have hit the defender’s face had his hand not been there, so no advantage was gained by handling the ball.
And besides, given that Serie A has placed concussions near the front of their worries, this seems counterproductive. The league recently began to permit referees to issue breaks in play for any possible head injury, yet Maicon was penalized for protecting himself from a head injury. And that’s not the only issue with this call. The wall was set up about a yard inside the box, and as the kick was taken Maicon jumped forward. Replays show that he was may have been outside the box at the time of contact. If this were only one time that this problem arose in the game it would be understandable, as at full speed this is certainly a difficult call to make.
But we move to the second penalty. Paul Pogba was tackled by Miralem Pjanic, seemingly just outside the penalty area. Pogba then took a graceful leap into a writhing heap inside the box. To make matters worse, this foul was called at approximately 46:37, in a half that was only supposed to have 1 minute of stoppage time. In fact, when the clock hit 46:00, Juventus were in their own half, and proceeded to cross the halfway marker twice before the foul was called. I’m not saying something is up, but it’s enough to make you suspicious.
The third Juventus goal was the least questionable, but it too left room for doubt. Off a poor corner clearance, Leonardo Bonucci sent a beautiful volley from the edge of the box into the Roma goal past goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski. Unfortunately for Roma, Skorupski’s vision was blocked by Juventus’s Arturo Vidal at the time of the shot, who was in an offsides position. In fact, Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus’ coach, said himself that Vidal limited Skorupski’s line of sight. Offside can be called whenever a player is past the last defender at the time the ball is kicked and proceeds to interfere with the play, something Vidal clearly did. But as mentioned, this is the least questionable of the three, as it is an infraction that is not called with regularity.
Sure, all referees have bad games, but this was past bad. Rocchi managed to lose control of the game within the first 20 minutes, with tempers clearly flying high. If it were only one game that Juventus had gotten some favorable calls it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it’s not. This has been happening for years. Roma captain Francesco Totti said in a postgame interview, “Juventus ought to have their own League, as by hook or by crook they always win.” Sure, players get mad when they lose, but there it’s not as though Juventus has a clean record when it comes to these matters.
The FIGC (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio) may have some investigating to do. Eight years ago, Juventus was demoted to Serie B and stripped of two Scudetti (Italian Championship) for match-fixing. It seems incredible that they would attempt this again, but events such as this past weekend’s action raise the question of match-fixing once again, even if they provide no conclusive proof.
Juventus have shown little remorse for what they did. In their statements, they even have the audacity to claim those two stripped titles as legitimate. The closest American equivalent would be Lance Armstrong still claiming that he won all those Tour de France titles, despite them being taken away for doping, and even that is not a perfect parallel as he was in competition with others equally as guilty. Corruption needs to be a greater concern of Serie A’s, as it’s high time this issue was fixed.