If ever the reputation of a league has been tarnished, it was that of the Italian Serie A during the 2006-07 season. Embroiled in controversy pertaining to match-fixing and bribing of officials—coined Calciopoli—it is fair to say the league—to this day—has not yet recovered from the dark period.
And whilst those illegally involved in the Serie A have well and truly been flushed out of the sport—in Turin at least—a stigma still associates itself with the Bianconeri. A stigma that generates ideas that suggest the most successful club in the history of Italian football are cheats—always have been and always will be.
Bearing the full brunt of the consequences handed down by Lega Calcio, Italian champions Juventus experienced the worst possible repercussions for involvement in Calciopoli—relegation to Serie B, large fines, revoked titles and docked points.
Considering this is written from the perspective of a Juventus diehard, expect me to defend the Bianconeri at every turn...but hear me out: I do not condone match-fixing or bribing of officials. I also don't believe that Juventus as a whole were knowledgeable of the below-board happenings that got them into trouble—but do agree it is the responsibility of the club to make known the credibility and activities of their employees.
I, for one, know for a fact, that aside from the direct punishments handed down during to the Old Lady, during this time, Juventus experienced a backlash far greater than ever imagined as a result of their involvement. It was a backlash potentially overlooked when punishments were handed down to the club, making it all the more difficult for Juventus to recover.
There is no doubt that the Juventus team assembled prior to Calciopoli was one of the best in the world, if not the best. I speak of names such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Emerson, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Cannavaro.
However, for this squad, an inability to access the top flight of Italian football and the UEFA Champions League saw a mass walkout in Turin. Along with this, dumping of sponsorship deals and reduced ticketing sales required Juve to offload players—simply to balance the books. For those who stuck by Juventus through this time—Del Piero, Buffon, Nedved, David Trezeguet and more—pay-cuts were in order.
People often fail to look past the direct implications experienced by the Bianconeri as a result of Calciopoli. The loss of money, fans and most importantly players is not something readily written about; it is for this very reason that allegations that match-fixing is still going on in Turin be considered naive and ignorant.
Nowadays, whenever the Bianconeri find themselves on the end of an incorrect call, jumps to suggest match-fixing is at work are readily made. Points taken in the Sulley Muntari "ghost goal" incident and incorrectly disallowed Gonzalo Bergessio strike.
It is such suggestions that are overshadowing the remarkable recovery by Juventus to establish themselves as a presence in Europe once again. An undefeated league run last season, coupled with an unprecedented domination of the defending European champions Chelsea in the Champions League, has well and truly made a statement to the world.
This piece comes in response to comments made by Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon. Comments made which clearly indicate Buffon's frustration with those who continue to immerse themselves in the Calciopoli era. In an interview with RAI (via Goal.com), Buffon responded to suggestions referees favour Juventus, saying:
I don’t like this controversy and it brings out this total inconsistency in the treatment of errors for and against Juventus.
This season the only really big mistakes I saw in our favour were against Catania.
At times there is an exaggerated pandemonium around these matters. Juventus are used as a shield and an alibi by those who never win.
With Juventus topping their apparent "group of death" in the Champions League, it is about time Italy woke up and realised that Juventus are the only way the league will re-establish itself to its former glory days. Living in the past will serve no purpose in achieving this feat.
Juventus have well and truly learned from their actions that disgraced the club during Calciopoli. I maintain Juventus won the league in 2004-05 and 2005-06 fairly despite the controversy—just take a look at some of the highlights, not to mention the team at Fabio Capello's disposal. But that time is over now: Juventus are back.