Doni owns up, laments 'rotten' football culture

28 January 2012 05:46

Disgraced former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni on Saturday pointed his finger at the "rotten" culture in Italian football as he finally owned up to the match-fixing offences which ended his career.

Doni, who admits to helping fix the results of two Serie B games last season in order to manipulate betting, is currently in prison for his offences and is serving a three and a half year ban from the game.

At the end of last season, the 'Last Bet' scandal also led to former Italy and Lazio striker Guiseppe Signori being banned from any football-related activity for five years by the Italian Football Federation's Disciplinary Committee.

Another Atalanta player, Thomas Manfredini, received a three-year ban.

When the affair erupted Doni proclaimed his innocence, and in December Atalanta coach Stefano Colantuono insisted: "We have done nothing. What we achieved (promotion), we did on our own merits."

Speaking to La Repubblica and the Gazzetta dello Sport newspapers on Saturday, the 38-year-old Doni finally admitted to helping fix the results of two Serie B (second division) matches -- Ascoli v Atalanta and Atalanta v Piacenza -- last season after being contacted by shady figures from the underworld.

Referring to the latter match, he explained, "when I was about to take a penalty, (Mario) Cassano (the Piacenza goalkeeper) told me, 'shoot in the centre and I'll dive'.

"I was an imbecile, and there is no excuse for that.

"The mistakes I made were designed to help Atalanta win promotion to Serie A. It was an obsession. I would have done anything (to make that happen). And that's exactly what I did. I betrayed my sport."

While Atalanta won Serie B and were allowed into Italy's top flight, they started their 2011-2012 Serie A campaign with a six-point deduction.

Doni says it is now time Italian football cleaned up its act.

"There are a lot (of people), too many, who are prepared to betray their sport," added Doni.

"In Serie B more than A, because apart from three or four clubs the pay there is very low. Some (players) are on an annual salary of 20,000 euros. So they are far more corruptible.

"An omerta is destroying Italian football, and we have to blow that wide open. We must have the courage to say how rotten football is."

While match-fixing is a problem in other professional leagues, Doni believes Italian culture, which like many countries has legalised sports betting, has helped cultivate it.

". the root of the problem is our culture. It's not just about footballers. There's also the referees, who see everything and do nothing, Federation observers, journalists and top management."

Doni, meanwhile, said prison has been a sobering experience.

"It helps you understand your errors. But it's worse than in the films. I was cold, I couldn't sleep. I thought a lot about what I did, about my daughter, my wife and about Atalanta.

"I couldn't wait to stand in front of the judge and tell him everything."

As investigators continue their probe, Cremona-based State prosecutor Roberto Di Martino has established the hub of the match-fixing operation to be in Singapore, where it is run by Singaporean Eng Tan Seet, also known as 'Dan'.

Doni meanwhile is buoyed by the fact some players, such as Bari's Andrea Masiello, have decided to collaborate.

He added: "My only hope now is that my story serves as a lesson. I hope the other players (.) won't be as stupid (as me) and will do as (Andrea) Masiello has done.

"He's been brave and, contrary to me, was intelligent enough to come forward in time."

Source: AFP