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Saturday June 23 2018
Machiavellian Frosinone

Frosinone beat Palermo to earn promotion with such embarrassing gamesmanship, it represents a blemish on Italian sport, writes Lorenzo Vicini.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

While the quote may fall short in some respects to the importance of winning - especially with a promotion final on the line, there is plenty to be said about the way Frosinone chose to play the second leg of the play-off final at home against Palermo. Needing a win to earn promotion to Serie A, what transpired on the pitch and off it was an embarrassment to the game of football and another blemish to the sport in Italy.

The match was certainly chippy from the beginning with both sides frequently resorting to cheap fouls to stop any build-up in play. Frosinone set the tone early with Luka Krajnc picking up a yellow inside of four minutes, after there had been some pushing and shoving in the opening 90 seconds. Not to be outdone, Danilo Soddimo foreshadowed the lack of fair play that would continue throughout the match when he resorted to an awful dive in the Palermo box. Referee Federico La Penna saw through the theatrics and gave the striker a yellow.

The officials had to rely on their wits because there was no VAR and this would prove desperately important after Raffaele Maiello’s long-range strike had given Frosinone the lead.

In the 60th minute, Palermo had a chance as Igor Coronado dribbled between two defenders on his way into the Frosinone box when he was tripped up. La Penna blew the whistle and signalled for a free kick, but then pointed to the penalty spot. Frosinone players were furious and surrounded the referee demanding he change his mind. During the madness, both sides started to get into confrontations and Palermo’s Ilija Nestorovski was on the receiving end of a headbutt right in front of La Penna - but it went unpunished.

Even more bizarre, La Penna changed his mind again, waved off the penalty and called a free kick. Intimidation and bullying from the Frosinone players appeared to have influenced La Penna to change his mind. It was an incredible sight, but the worst was yet to come.

With stoppage time approaching, Palermo’s attacks in the Ciocari’s final third were disrupted - not by the players on the pitch, but by balls being lobbed on to the field from behind the goal. Fans and ball-boys were stopping Palermo attacks with extra balls thrown at strategic moments, forcing the referee to halt play.

Then, balls started to arrive from the sideline and cameras caught several Frosinone players rolling balls on to the pitch from the bench! The anti-sporting behavior was unlike anything witnessed in recent memory and a truly cowardly and pathetic move from the club. Referee La Penna didn’t do much to get the game under control - the players on the bench weren’t even sent off for their shameful actions. In stoppage time, a missed foul outside the Frosinone box turned into a counter-attack that resulted in Ciano’s goal to make it 2-0 with two minutes left before the final whistle. Yet, the final whistle never occurred as fans flooded the pitch and La Penna did nothing to try to officially end the match.

The audacity of Frosinone after the match was perhaps even worse than the behavior of the club’s players. First, Coach Moreno Longo brushed off any complaints by claiming Palermo was a club that didn’t have its finances in order. Then, Frosinone’s owner released an official statement saying his club and its players have always abided and respected the law of fair play without even addressing the stunning malfeasance that occurred in the match.    

Palermo appealed the result, citing the numerous examples of anti-sporting behavior. But of course, this is Italy and the appeal was denied. Punishments were awarded, but they were laughable and do nothing to discourage this type of behavior in the future. A couple of fines for the club and a few players, two matches behind closed doors and no suspensions for those who rolled balls on to the pitch. Better yet, some of the Palermo players received even stiffer punishment, as three players were given suspensions and the sporting director was put on probation until August.

The decisions and indecisions will have long-lasting ramifications for Palermo. Missing out on promotion back to Serie A will force the club to make serious cuts to their wage bill and sell many marquee players. Potential buyers of the club may be turned off to a squad that will spend at least another year in Serie B. And President Maurizio Zamparini himself is no longer as engaged or invested in the club as he used to be.

And while all of those things are disappointing to Palermo fans, the real travesty is how Frosinone got away with the terrible behaviour they displayed. There will be no points deduction or strong rebuke from the sport’s governing body. Frosinone the club won’t even punish or speak out against the actions of those players, ball-boys and fans who intentionally stopped play. And ultimately, what we learned was that the Machiavellian approach to football in Italy is all that really matters.  

Have your say...
What garbage. Most of your complaints are about the referee, not Frosinone. And watch the "penalty" again. It was a clear dive. The Palermo player leaves his leg out to make contact, and then flops onto the ground.

Why does nobody want to give the Ciociari their due credit? Two minutes away from finishing 2nd in the table. Then they go ahead and win two home-aways in the playoffs, scoring quality goals along the way. Fantastic goalkeeping.
on the 26th June, 2018 at 5:58pm
Are you kidding me ? Ball boys lol Have you watched a Roma game vs a team that counts...how they waste time have you seen the derby ? Did you see var not overturn a handball goal to try help push Milan up the standings oh and that 1 point cost lazio champions league! Have you seen VAR against lazio and your crying about what a serie B game. Did you watch Juve games this year and did you see how Juve and Roma are heavily assisted wanna know why.hint they borrow money from the same bank.calciopoli
on the 26th June, 2018 at 4:59am
Palermo is an oddity club. Has boasted some of the greatest players / up and coming talent ever. > Luca Toni, Cavani, Miccoli, Dybala, Hernandez, Sirigu, Nocerino, Amauri, Balzaretti, Grosso, Barzagli, Pinilla, Kjaer,etc. !!! Yet seem to bounce back and forth from A to B. Owner is a wacko cuz he’s basically sold all of his great players and invested somewhat bad, even when were playing great a few seasons up to 4th/Europa spot. they should be a top 8 team/ Europa league contender every season in Serie A.
on the 25th June, 2018 at 10:16pm
Yawn. Im getting sleepy lolol its 2018 guys. Time for you to stop blaming juve for your teams overly over sucking.
on the 25th June, 2018 at 7:57pm
This kind-of behavior was introduced as "normal" by Juventus in the Maggiopoli era. It is the Moggi legacy the entire football world warned of 20 years ago.
on the 25th June, 2018 at 1:00am
Serie A just keeps declining... Italy will become a near irrelevant football nation, if it isn't already... this is coming from a diehard Italy and Serie A fan.. I grew up watching the 80s and 90s Serie A... So sad.. This is a reflection of what is going on in the country in general
on the 24th June, 2018 at 9:57pm
@Lucas. R u for real! Inter have hidden behind the statute of limitations, acknowledged that they are just guilty if not a bit more because they had directors in inter as well as telecom Italia ( u know, the guys that couldn't find any inter calls!!! ). Wise up man!!!
on the 24th June, 2018 at 12:22am
Where is the evidence? Do you even know what was revealed in 2011?
on the 23rd June, 2018 at 11:04pm
seriously, Juventus fan blaming Inter for calciopoli, you guys are never gonna move on from that, will you now. If Inter was at fault then where's the freaking evidence.
on the 23rd June, 2018 at 9:25pm
that or having a owner like zamparini who is crazy who fires his coach in the middle of april, this palermo side has some of the best players in serie b. Zamparini runs his club badly it is purely down to him that they have struggled. The players which this club has had belotti cavanni pastore dybala to mention a few some get sold on for a decent profit other like belotti 9 million euros or gilk 3 million euros or toni 10 million euros. zamparini is just crazy
on the 23rd June, 2018 at 4:34pm
Good article, although would have liked more info on the free-kick/penalty call, was it inside or outside the box? Did the ref make the correct decision? After the farce of Calciopoli, this is yet another embarrassing incident on the Italian game. Throwing balls on the pitch to stop attacks is clear cheating and as a neutral I can see why Palermo want it to be replayed.
on the 23rd June, 2018 at 3:29pm
Lol... Can you blame them, I mean look at calciopoli!!! That was a farce and inter (the ring leader) got away Scot free aswell, but like all small minded team frosinone and inter will never be more than what they are ( other than the occasional blemish) as the author has put it!
on the 23rd June, 2018 at 7:45am

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