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  • Iestyn Withers

Sporting Scandals: Calciopoli and the Juventus renaissance

A household name on a worldwide scale, Juventus have won eight consecutive Serie A titles and appeared in two of the last five UEFA Champions League finals. Boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gianluigi Buffon in their squad, the Bianconeri are a football superpower. The star-studded names in the current squad are not unique for the Italian giants, for decades the club has seen famous name after famous name don their fabled black and white stripes. So why did the likes of Pavel Nedved, Alessandro Del Piero and the aforementioned Gianluigi Buffon find themselves battling out a 1-1 draw with Rimini in the second division opener of 2006? How did the now 35 time Italian champions find themselves relegated 13 years ago?

Embroiled in allegations alongside 4 other top-flight clubs - Lazio, Fiorentina, A.C. Milan, Reggina - Italian police had uncovered a network of relations between clubs and referee organisations that showed the appointments of favourable officials.

Uncovered through illegal phone interceptions much akin to scenes in a Hollywood blockbuster, transcripts displayed a conscious and choreographed effort from a select group of clubs to pressurize refereeing officials into favouring their sides. At the centre of this scandal? The General Manager of reigning champions Juventus, Luciano Moggi (though he continues to deny any wrongdoing).

Come to the end of this scandal, Moggi and both the Italian football federation president and vice-president had resigned as both the nation and football world were in shock and disbelief.

Italian journalist Roberto Beccantini, who was working for La Stampa newspaper at the time, referred to the story as an "eruption of a volcano", as prosecutor Stefano Palazzi called for all clubs involved to be relegated to Serie B and various financial implications to be imposed imposed. Furthermore, Palazzi believed Juventus should be stripped of their 2005 title and downgraded to last place for the 2006 season - ultimately resulting in the loss of another title.

In what should have been a wonderful summer for Italian football as the national team were crowned 2006 World Cup winners, a dark cloud loomed over the country as the fallout of Calciopoli began to take shape.

As the other 4 clubs escaped relegation, Juventus were relegated to Serie B with a 30 point deduction (eventually reduced to 9 points following a series of appeals) and the inevitable mass exodus of players commenced. A host of top names left the Turin-based club including World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta, fellow World Cup finalists Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram, Brazli midfielder Emerson and contemporary cult-hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Whilst a select few superstars stayed loyal, Juventus were a shell of their former selves as they ventured to north-west Italy in September 2006 to play in front of 10,000 fans. The aforementioned 1-1 draw against minnows Rimini served as a further representation of the depths Juventus had sunk to.

Following the result Gianluigi Buffon stated: "We came here with a smile on our face, but in Serie B you have to play with a knife between your teeth." Evidently, the tough nature of the second-tier was just further proof of the alien situation Juventus had gotten themselves into.

Though Juventus didn't suffer as large a demise as Parma did when administration forced their rebirth in Serie D during 2015 (the Italian fourth-tier), for a club of size of Juventus to be playing in Serie B was relatively unheard of within European football. La Vecchia Signora, or The Old Lady, as known by its fans, Juventus craved an instant reaction from its players.

A reaction is what the Juve fans got with their side gaining promotion straight back to Serie A as league winners at the first time of asking; for all the mainstream attention, Juventus' foray into the second division was short-lived.

As the club began their renaissance on the pitch, the fallout from the Calciopoli was far from over. Still rearing from the stripping of their scudetto (Serie A title) from 2005 and the non-assignment of the 2006 title, the disgraced club began to consider challenging these punishments.

Buoyed further by the partial writing off of Luciano Moggi's conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015, Juventus sued the Italian Football Federation for the 443 million euros of damages suffered by their relegation as part of the scandal.

Whilst the Italian Football Federation offered to discuss the reinstatement of the stripped titles, the Supreme Court's eventual ruling of the case - Moggi's remaining charges were dropped, but the court confirmed he was involved in sporting fraud that was intended to favour Juventus - led to the rejection of the club's request for compensation. To this day, the club continues to showcase their title winning count with the lost scudetto. That title count now sits at, according to Juventus, 37 top-flight titles.

Following promotion back to Serie A in 2007, Juventus struggled to regain their previous supremacy but the foundations were laid for a prosperous future. The arrival of Antonio Conte as the club's manager in 2011, and a move to the Juventus Stadium that September, served as a catalyst for one of the most successful sporting runs in history.

Commencing with an unbeaten title-winning season in 2011-12, the Bianconeri's run has produced four league and cup doubles, eight consecutive scudetto's and two Champions League finals and the memories of a hard-fought draw at Rimini in 2006 are seemingly a long lost memory. However, the Italian public does not forget. Colloquially known as the most hated team in Italy, Juventus have a dark past that is only rivalled by their tradition and history of arrogance.

Forget the Calciopoli for a second, Juventus is a club that many believe is founded in cockiness. The Old Lady's motto 'Vincere non e' importante, e'l'unica cosa che conta' translates as 'Winning is not important, it is the only thing that matters'. Couple that with Juventus' refusal to wear the two stars on their jersey (signalling the 20+ scudettos won) as they claimed the lost scudetto meant they would have won 30+ titles and thus should be emblazoned with 3 stars, one could argue the Italian public have a right to their dislike.

That said, since the plummet caused by the Calciopoli, few could argue with the success Juventus have achieved since their revival. And as we kick off the 2019-20 season, who would be brave enough to bet against them winning a ninth straight scudetto?

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