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Napoli duo get careers back on track after match-fixing penalty dropped

Napoli moved to second in Serie A without kicking a ball last week after the latest twist in the match-fixing row affecting Italian football.

Napoli's players feel vindicated after punishment against the club for previous allegations were overturned.
Napoli's players feel vindicated after punishment against the club for previous allegations were overturned.

Napoli moved from third to second in Serie A last week without kicking a ball.

The overturning of the two-point deduction against the club as well as the six-month bans on captain Paulo Cannavaro and fellow defender Gianluca Grava by a court of appeal was welcomed in Naples as vindication.

The appeal, and the investigations that preceded it, highlighted the difficulties for prosecutors in accusations of match-fixing.

The prospect of a ban for anybody failing to report their knowledge of attempted corruption should be a powerful weapon in the fight against the problem.

But it is in the nature of the misdemeanour that corrupters seeking to involve professional sportsmen in it do not declare themselves explicitly. At first, they act insidiously, subtly hint at the idea, nudge and wink.

Cannavaro and Grava argued they had no clue their former teammate, Napoli's ex reserve goalkeeper, the now banned Matteo Gianello, had suggested to them a plot to pervert a 2010 match against Sampdoria. The appeal court found his accounts of dialogues with Cannavaro and Grava inconsistent, his testimony unreliable.

Cannavaro and Grava, visibly emotional to have their careers back on track, feel they were wronged victims of a McCarthyism within Italian football. That is understandable, but they must also appreciate the battle against match-fixing is an vital one, and the match-fixers' methods often devilishly hard to track.

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