Italian Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri has told the national team to go to Euro 2012 and play with pride after coach Cesare Prandelli said he would have “no problem” if the authorities would rather his team withdraw from the competition due to the match-fixing scandal.
Prandelli indicated he had sympathy with those – including Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti – who have said this week it might be better for football to take a break in the country until what appear to be deep-rooted problems with match-fixing are solved.
“If you told us that for the good of football we should not participate, it wouldn’t be a problem for me,” Prandelli told RaiSport. “There are things that I believe are more important.”
But with little over a week until Italy’s opening fixture against Spain, Cancellieri indicated there would be no call from the authorities for Italy to sit it out.
“The European Championship is a major international tournament. Play, and play well for Italy,” she said.
Italian World Cup winner Marco Tardelli, now an assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni with Italy’s Group C rivals the Republic of Ireland, said he could not envisage an Italian withdrawal.
He said: “I don’t think so, I don’t think so. Italy is very important. They will be in Poland because it is only some players [who are allegedly involved]. Not all of football in Italy is involved.
“I am surprised [he said it], but maybe sometimes Prandelli says some things to pressure the players and the people that are around the team.”
Prandelli’s comments came at the end of a week which has seen police make 19 arrests, including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, while Prandelli dropped Domenico Criscito from his squad for the Euros after the Zenit St Petersburg defender was questioned at the team training camp.
Prandelli added: “I would rather only talk about football, but events are conspiring against this.”
The scandal has continued to spread with the lawyer of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon forced to leap to the defence of his client last night amid further claims.
Marco Valerio Corini told SkyTG24 television: “There is nothing which could even carry the faintest suggestion of a connection between Gianluigi Buffon and any betting activity that would concern him in any irregularity either with respect to federation rules or criminal law. There is not the slightest foundation for any suggestion that this is connected with a bet.”
Prandelli admitted he did not know what effect the matter could have on his goalkeeper. “How is Buffon’s mood? You should ask him. He is very strong, with a great personality. He manages to hide uncomfortable moments, but despite this, even a person like him can suffer in a difficult moment like this.”
Criscito, who came under the microscope after prosecutors discovered a photograph of him speaking with other suspects, claims that he has been made a “scapegoat” after his very public questioning on Monday.
“On Monday morning, I was shocked,” the defender told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I never expected it. I have not done anything wrong in my life, as those who know me can attest.
“Being dropped from the squad, I know, makes me a symbol of the scandal. I feel anger and sorrow because I should not be a scapegoat for something I am not involved with.”