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Scandal Rocks Italian Football


Italian football is being rocked by a scandal less than a month before the start of the World Cup Championship in Germany. Four top clubs in Italy are under investigation for possible match fixing.

A massive investigation is under way in Italy into fixing soccer games. The country's favorite sport and its most successful team, Juventus, are in trouble. Police Friday searched the offices in Rome of the Italian football federation and the association of Italian referees.

Those under investigation include Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and World Cup referee Massimo De Santis. Also being investigated is Luciano Moggi, general manager of Juventus, one of Italy's most celebrated teams.

The scandal erupted last week, when newspapers published alleged transcripts of the Juventus manager's telephone conversations with senior federation officials, in which he allegedly attempted to influence the appointments of last season's referees.

Italian prosecutors allege that Moggi, nicknamed Lucky Luciano, created a widespread system of power, deciding which referees should officiate at Juventus games, which players should be selected for the national team, and even, which players should be given yellow cards.

In Naples, public prosecutor Giovandomenico Lepore said he has ordered 41 people to appear for questioning. He said these include referees, federation officials, police officers and a journalist. They are being investigated for criminal association and sporting fraud.

Lepore confirmed the investigation is looking into 19 top-level, Series A matches from the 2004-2005 season, and one game from the second tier Series B.

Giuseppe Narducci, another Naples prosecutor, said four Series A clubs are currently being investigated - Juventus, Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina.

On Thursday, the entire board of Juventus resigned. And earlier this week, Italy's soccer chief, Franco Carraro, also quit. The investigation has rapidly widened, with public prosecutors looking into alleged malpractice involving referees at several top clubs.

Prosecutors say the first formal hearing of the investigation will take place on Monday in Rome, when Juventus general manager Moggi will face questioning.

Italians are divided into those who hate Juventus, known as the "Old Lady," and are rejoicing, and those who love the team and are in despair.

The scandal also weighs heavily on Italy, which is going into the World Cup starting June 9 as one of the favorites.

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