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Trial of Italy's Leading Soccer Figures Postponed


The trial of four leading Italian soccer clubs on match-fixing charges opened in Rome Thursday, but was quickly suspended to give lawyers more time to prepare. Soccer-crazy Italy has been gripped by the scandal since it broke in May.

A sports tribunal established by Italy's soccer federation convened Thursday at an improvised courtroom at Rome's Olympic Stadium. The panel of six judges is trying four of Italy's top league clubs, plus 26 senior officials, referees and linesmen.

They are all charged with rigging matches in Italy's top soccer league. If found guilty, Champions Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio could be relegated to from the top league and forced out of European competitions.

The chief judge opened the trial asking whether former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and former chief executive Antonio Giraudo were present.

But neither man appeared in court Thursday.

Both have been implicated following the publishing of intercepted telephone conversation in which refereeing appointments were discussed. After the scandal broke in May they resigned along with the entire board of Juventus.

The club and its fans was also shaken earlier this week when a former player appointed as team manager, Gianluca Pessotto, fell from a second-floor window at the club's headquarters.

Fans are outside the hospital cheering Pessotto and wishing him to get well soon. The former Juventus midfielder is not implicated in the scandal but many believe he tried to commit suicide. He remains in a serious condition.

The opening proceedings were adjourned until next Monday to give lawyers more time to study documents, but the sports tribunal has said it will issue verdicts before the World Cup final on July 9.

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