Juventus will appeal to the TNAS, the arbitrary sports tribunal run by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), regarding the bans handed to Antonio Conte and Angelo Alessio by the Federal Court of Justice, requesting that the bans be suspended and the appeal dealt with as a matter of urgency. The next legal move was confirmed by the coaches’ lawyers, Chiappero, Bongiorno and De Rensis, in a press conference held at the Media Center in Vinovo this afternoon.
While the future is still to be written, today’s conference with Conte, Alessio and their legal representatives focused on the past – on the confessions of supposed witnesses, the investigations and the trials which are now over. Asking the gathered audience to reflect on what has taken place.
Because what has happened to the Bianconeri coach, especially following yesterday’s ruling, requires analysis and further investigation. Conte took the floor first to speak up after “months of silence, in which I was front-page news in all the papers, my name associated with the match-fixing and betting scandal. I have never bet in all my life.” You could detect sadness in his voice but also conviction and determination. Conte knows he is innocent and he simply cannot understand how the word of a professional of his calibre can be considered less credible than the word of Filippo Carobbio. “Or ‘Pippo’, as we should say, since he’s become all chummy with the federal prosecutor. For seven months now people have been talking about this technical meeting before the Novara v Siena game in which I supposedly told my players that we would draw the match. But a technical meeting is an almost religious moment, when we talk about technique, tactics, we look at video clips and I give the team a motivational talk to get them to increase or lower their tension as needed. And after all of that what am I supposed to have said? ‘Don’t worry about anything lads, we’re going to draw it.’ I would have made a fool of myself in front of them, their families and their agents. That’s the defamatory accusation that has been carried on for months.”
“I’ve been cleared of that but another one came out,” Conte continued. “AlbinoLeffe v Siena, for which I apparently ‘couldn’t have not known about’. I asked my lawyers to explain what that means and I still don’t understand it. One of the charges for failing to report was dropped and still they confirmed the 10-month ban. This is all so absurd!”
What is equally as absurd is the fact that Angelo Alessio, given a six-month ban following the appeal, was not even interrogated: “I have always been respectful and well-mannered,” Conte’s assistant began in a calm tone of voice. “No prosecutor investigated me but Palazzi charged me without so much as an interrogation. The disciplinary committee gave me an eight-month ban and the Court of Federal Justice gave me six months. I’ve been judged by everybody but nobody has listened to me. How can something like this occur?”
That is one of the many questions in this affair to which it is difficult to provide answers. “Why has all of this happened?” Conte wonders. “The only thing that has changed for me is that I joined a team that was loved or hated and I won the Scudetto after two seventh-place finishes. I’ve been accusing of failing to report things. But if I didn’t see anything, what was I supposed to report? This whole affair is starting to make me worried about going into the dressing room. That’s where I should be the leader, but I’m starting to fear what might happen if I have an argument with a player or if I have to leave him out of the matchday squad and send him to the stands. What if he decides to start throwing accusations at me a few years down the line? That’s what has happened! People have believed a person who sold games, betraying his own team-mates, and not me. I’ll just say one thing to my fellow coaches: today it’s me but tomorrow it could happen to them. Open your eyes!”
Another thing that has left Antonio Conte dumbfounded were the comments made yesterday by a member of the Court of Federal Justice, who voiced his opinion about the second ruling in public claiming that Conte “had been lucky”. The coach continued: “I think that sort of behaviour is improper and goes against the rules. A judge should respect the rules and see that others respect them, whereas I see a man who, to get himself in the news, has used my name and said things that are at the very least inappropriate. That makes me think it’s something personal against me. This is an absurd affair and yesterday really topped it all off.”
Conte’s speech was long and articulate. He spoke not only about the situation he finds himself in personally but also about the sporting justice system in general. A system which led his lawyers to advise making a plea-bargain, which was later rejected by the disciplinary committee. “Plea-bargaining is like blackmail. I, an innocent man, have to hear my lawyer tell me that, given the justice system in place, it would be better not to take any risks. It’s an embarrassment.”
The plea-bargaining arrangement, an option taken up by many during this summer’s trials, is a perfect example of why this system is in urgent need of a reform. Lawyer Giulia Bongiorno explained: “Conte’s plea-bargain was rejected but it’s better that way. Better to be banned for 100 years! And it becomes clear that these plea-bargains are used to entice false witnesses when you consider that Conte was supposed to make a plea-bargain for Novara v Siena, a game for which he was then acquitted!”
What remains incredible is that Carobbio was not considered a credible witness for that game, but he is for the AlbinoLeffe v Siena game. “Yet the two cases are intrinsically linked,” Bongiorno added. “We’ll find out the motivation behind the sentence, but one thing is already certain: the initial evidence is so confused and contradictory that Palazzi asked for a plea-bargain and a three-month ban. The disciplinary committee turned that down and sentenced Conte to a ten-month ban for failing to inform of an attempt to fix a match on two occasions, while the Court of Federal Justice considers one completely inadmissible but upholds the ban regardless, as they consider the offence to be so bad. That’s three different versions. Clearly there’s something wrong with the evidence. A further, detailed investigation needs to be made.”
Everything still centres around Carobbio, who “had to admit that a motivational talk was actually given before the Novara v Siena game,” lawyer Chiappero reminded everyone. “And from that moment he lost credibility, because how can a coach talk to his players, giving them a rousing team-talk, and then immediately afterwards say, ‘We’ve agreed to fix this game and play for a draw’? If I establish that someone initially told a lie about another person, how can the rest of his accusations be considered credible?”
And yet Carobbio is indeed considered to be a credible witness when he talks about the match-fixing in the AlbinoLeffe v Siena game and that is what the second ruling is based on. “Conte has gone through all the papers with us over these previous months,” lawyer De Rensis stressed. “And the more we read them, the more we were encouraged to keep going. As the real truth is in those papers. The ten-month ban is cause for tremendous bitterness and pain, but the glass is half full and we must focus on that: Carobbio is no longer always a credible witness, the Federal Court even said as much. Therefore, we’ll focus on the AlbinoLeffe v Siena game from now on and we will be asking the TNAS for an acquittal.”
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