Offside

Two days ago Italian tv station La7 broadcast the first dramatization, or documentary, on calciopoli. It is named Operazione Off Side (sic) after the carabinieri investigation with the same name, conducted between 2004 and 2006. It quickly gets confusing when trying to straighten up who did what, but the short version is: there were simultaneous investigations ongoing at the time regarding the corruption in football, but which were conducted isolated with no information of even the existence of other investigations. The documentary obfuscates the lines between a dramatization on the one hand and an actual depiction of transpired events with its mix between re-enacted scenes with professional actors and the real audio from wiretaps and interrogations. It comes together, with great mastery of the craft, to make for an overwhelmingly powerful portrait of the scandal.

The film infuriated me as I watched it. At first I thought of live-blogging the film (as it were), but soon realized it would mean entry updates every other minute to write things like "43' Moggi cries - I am distracted from looking up whatever word the Germans have for what I'm feeling by minute long fits of malicious giggles"; "77' If Mazzini doesn't stop laughing like a goat, I will need to head butt the wall in order to calm down", and no one needs that. So I'll try to thematize the content instead, somehow.

The center of attention is, of course, Luciano Moggi (MMMO) as the creator of the entire system that manipulated Italian football. As if we didn't know it before, Moggi wielded an extreme amount of power and influence over every aspect of the sport: from serie C, where upon the explicit request of the Minister of the Interior Giuseppe Pisanu, Moggi arranged for Pisanu's favorite team Torres avoid relegation; to serie A where Moggi plotted the outcome of the 2004/05 season with "surgical precision" and made sure Juventus won lo scudetto, and that Fiorentina avoided relegation. There are implications he was a member of P2, Italy's notorious masonic lodge which has played a major part in many negative episodes of Italian post war history (in the documentary, the carabinieri officer interrogating Moggi asks flat out if he was a member; Moggi reacts avoidably, almost taken aback, and starts to say he doesn't even know what a masonic lodge is), he decided the confirmation of Franco Carraro as head of Federcalcio, and he pushed around the Italian Minister of Defense and the mass media at his own whim. As the nucleus of his own system, everything revolved around Moggi; when he isn't seemingly adored by sycophantic men and women, he is begrudgingly acknowledged as the one you need to be on good standing with in order to get something one wants.



But he didn't do it by himself, and vital to the system were men like Innocenzo Mazzini, the vice president of Federcalcio (the Italian football federation). He acted, to quote the interrogation with Moggi, as the latter's "armed wing", and was in essence the designated go-between and portal between Moggi and those seeking his favor. Again, this was the vice president of the country's football federation doing his bidding as if he were a secretary. Mazzini was the man presidents like Lotito and Della Valle reached out to for help; his goat-like, callous laugh when discussing the as-plotted referee favors Lazio and Fiorentina received is forever burned into my memory. When Mazzini didn't directly relay messages and information to Moggi, he got in touch with Paolo Bergamo, one of the referee designators and thus in charge of which referee was to be reprimanded, be handed a particular game, etcetera.

One of the most spectacular events that quickly leaked into the press that spring of 2006 was the attack on Paparesta after a Reggina-Juventus in November of 2004; after perceiving Juventus as being cheated, Moggi locked Paparesta in his locker room and took the keys with him to the air port. He is heard bragging about the incident to his sycophants before making his next move. That would be to create a mass medial atmosphere of indignation at the treatment of Juventus; he contacted Aldo Biscardi, host of the brain numbing but nonetheless popular tv show Il processo di lunedì (The Monday trial) and suggested that Paparesta, together with the assistant referees that game, be suspended for four to five weeks, and that his license to referee be revoked. The next day, Biscardi was heard repeating Moggi's words - verbatim - in front of a large tv audience, and a studio audience that applauded him sheepishly. By now this was the running narrative, and everything revolved around for how long Paparesta should be kept out as punishment; no medial space was given to opposing views which could question the legitimacy of such actions based on one game, when Juventus had gotten away with much more insulting favors for decades before that.

The other teams incriminated by the investigation are above all Lazio and Fiorentina. Milan are mentioned, but their's is an interesting story; Milan had apparently discovered on their own the system of Moggi and Juventus, and tried to take measures to ensure they weren't playing a game that had already been decided. A mid level director, Leonardo Meani, placed calls to a secretary at the Referee's association and told him that he expected Milan to be treated the same way as Juventus were, and asked that for Milan's next game two particular assistant referees be appointed. The request was not met; different assistant referees were appointed for the game, in which they ruled out a perfectly legitimate goal for an non-existent offside. Obviously it's not kosher, but I would think both once and twice before I lumped Milan together with Juventus in this affair. Nor indeed even with Lazio and Fiorentina, both teams much more obviously involved. It starts with Blogistuta favorite Claudio Lotito - he starts courting Mazzini for favors for his Lazio which is  performing predictably poorly. His swooning for Mazzini's raggedy locks of gray hair and Moggi's shiny bald head and cartoon-serpent-like voice pays off, and Lazio are given a run of favorable referees and manage to win a few games thanks in no small part to biased refereeing. Lotito, unbeknownst to himself, is however merely a pawn for Moggi; at the same time Franco Carraro, president of Federcalcio, was in real danger of losing the upcoming election for his position, and Lotito's vote was crucial. Once Carraro was confirmed, and the system of Moggi was no longer threatened by the selection of Abete (the current president of the federation), Lotito was no longer needed. Once Lazio played Juventus, and Lazio were treated precisely as one would suspect against Juve, the deception was evident even for Lotito. Furious, he called Mazzini, who laughed him off and said that Lotito had had his day as top dog, but he couldn't expect to be one all the time. Here I'm both indignant over the absolute power of Moggi's system, and happy Lotito got his comeuppance. Now he was left with a doubtlessly deflating realization of being used and memories of brown nosing Mazzini (Mazzini: "tell that idiot coach of yours to shut up about referees for now", Lotito: "yes, yes, I told him, and it's good that you to tell me").



When the Della Valle brothers entered the football world, they did it as crusaders against the old system, and representatives of a new, cleaner football. But by 2005, their Fiorentina was hurting, and relegation to serie B an overwhelmingly likely outcome. First the Della Valles called Lotito directly to suggest an agreement on the result between Lazio and Fiorentina. Lotito told Diego to go screw himself, and later gossiped about them to Mazzini, "farisei di merda" ("fucking Pharisees"). So with their back to the wall and by now resigned to the absolute power of Moggi's system, whom do they call? Their friend Mazzini, naturally. As their mutual friend, he arranges an introduction to Paolo Bergamo, the referee designator. The ensuing phone call between Della Valle and him is enough to reserve a place in Dante's ninth circle for the former. Says the righteous Della Valle, "I didn't know I could just pick up the phone and call you". A meeting is arranged between the Della Valle brothers, Mazzini and Bergamo; Fiorentina would escape relegation on the very last day thanks to blatant refereeing errors (calculated errors committed with intent).

The system created by Moggi had abandoned Lotito in favor of the Della Valle. The wiretaps make it evident Lotito isn't someone they fear or respect, whereas the riches of the Della Valle brothers makes them more worthwhile "investments". This capricious shift in attitude is highlighted when remembering that earlier Mazzini had procured a secret dossier someone had compiled on Diego Della Valle and allegedly illegal real estate business deals he had made, which he offered Moggi so they would have some leverage on the brothers, should they rouse rabble. Former enemies become partners in crime, former allies are abandoned; new alliances are formed as old ones are dismantled.

Most of the facts in the documentary/dramatization were known before. The wiretaps leaked to the media upon the scandal's discovery in the beginning of May of 2006, and they've been around since then. But what the film manages to do is take those individual, sometimes previously isolated pieces and put them together in a complex puzzle, which tells a bigger picture. It puts things into its correct context, and the end result is a damning demonstration in corruption. Luciano Moggi, the man who claims he held no power, ordered Minister of the Interior Pisanu on how to proceed with that week's serie A games as Pope John Paul II laid on his death bed (in a later phone call to Giraudo, Moggi explained that the real reason wasn't altruistic; the opponents of Juventus that week had important players injured, so to delay the game would be detrimental to Juve), and handled and arranged for transfers to other cities for the officials in Guardia di Finanza who were working on the investigation of Juventus. By now it is evident to all but the most ardent and stubborn juventini how far Moggi's tentacles reached. And I'm madder than ever; filled with indignant rage at the hypocrisy and arrogance of everyone involved. Also here the film provides satisfaction; in the acted scenes, the carabiniero officer interrogating Moggi has about half a dozen wonderful comments that were cathartic for me. My favorite: "No, I think you finally understand what it is we have". Quanto godo.