The anger and the frustration was as understandable as it was acceptable. The decision to award Atalanta a penalty in their 4-3 win at Inter on Sunday, albeit when the home side were still 3-1 up, was as unjust as it was absurd. Nerazzurro President Massimo Moratti, boss Andrea Stramaccioni and captain Javier Zanetti were right to make their voices heard.
What they said is much more questionable. The idea that there is some sort of plot to damage Inter was a dangerous one to allege, one which was arguably backed up with pretty flimsy evidence. Moratti – who surely recognises mistakes made by his transfer chief Marco Branca and boss Stramaccioni – argued that 21 games without a penalty was enough to warrant an Exhibit A tag. Zanetti’s admission that he didn’t know who was behind the supposed conspiracy highlighted that we’re still in the land of speculation.
Moratti, Stramaccioni and Zanetti have a right to express their opinions, thoughts and concerns. They may be correct, they may be wrong. Tomorrow could enlighten, but today there is no concrete proof. Moratti’s penalty stats are noteworthy, but inconclusive. After all, last term, Juventus moaned about a lack of spot-kicks after receiving just one in their first 32 League games, but that didn’t stop them becoming champions.
The wider issue at the moment is that, for some who are directly involved in the game or for those who watch it, there seems to be a doubt over the legitimacy of Italian whistle blowers. And there are multiple reasons for that.
The Calciopoli scandal of 2006 is still very much in the forefront of the Italian footballing landscape. Sentences may have been passed, but few believe that justice was done. Club officials, including Moratti, continue to maintain their own theories of events over a scandal that still grips the game on the peninsula.
In a country where suspicion has its own DNA marker, it doesn’t take too many bad refereeing decisions to go against you before your inner Woodward and Bernstein is awoken. The fact that Moratti feels that there is something sinister behind the errors which his side have suffered is simply an indication of how poor some of the officiating has been.
There have been some shocking performances this term outside of Inter matches. Chievo-Roma, Fiorentina-Milan and Catania-Juventus are just three examples. Remember the latter, where Catania had a good goal disallowed and Arturo Vidal’s strike should have been cancelled out? President Antonino Pulvirenti is still fuming now, but he’s refusing to back Moratti.
“We’re getting towards the end of the season, where objectives are close and controversies are on the increase,” he stated this week. “But I don’t agree with Moratti, I don’t believe in the bad faith of the referees. And that is coming from me…”
Referee chief Marcello Nicchi stood up for his officials on Monday, claiming that they, like players, will make mistakes. He then suggested that anyone who didn’t believe in the refereeing sector could not be a part of the Italian football system.
The latter portion of his argument was a clear message aimed at Moratti and raises an important question. If Moratti is truly convinced that his Inter side are being targeted for special treatment, then why own a football club? Why invest in an outfit that struggles to net a profit year after year? Why bother trying to win if you don’t think you will be allowed to? Would an atheist go to church and pray to God?
If anything, this latest refereeing storm – which won’t be the last – illustrates that the current refereeing system doesn’t work. Some are just not up to the job and the AIA’s human error defence is too simplistic. The decision to use goal-line assistants needs to be re-examined, match officials need to become fitter, better and stronger. And if that doesn’t work then vociferous club officials need to unite and, if they feel necessary, consider lobbying for the introduction of video technology. Alternatively, they can allow everything to stay as it is and take turns in crying foul.