For decades the Italian league has been plagued by controversy. Ripe with allegations of match fixing, doping and Mafia involvement it just wouldn’t be Italian football without it.
In a new book, currently being serialised in La Gazzetta dello Sport, Matias Almeyda openly details the dirtier side to life as a top ‘Serie A’ footballer. The ex Argentina international, now manager of sleeping giants River Plate, tells all about his eight years in Europe’s most controversial league.
Having spells at Perugia, Lazio and Inter it was his time spent with Parma that seemed to produce the most sensational claims. The combative midfielder alleges to have unknowingly taken drugs as part of strange pre-match practices, ‘We were given an IV drip before games,’ he wrote. ‘They said it was a mixture of vitamins but before entering the field I was able to jump up as high as the ceiling. Players do not ask questions.’
The book entitled, ‘Almeyda: Life and Soul’, almost reads like a Mario Puzo novel. In a scene reminiscent of the horse head incident in the ‘Godfather,’ Almeyda writes, ‘I had a fight with Stefano Tanzi and several days later I woke up to find my new car was missing from the garage.’
A former cult figure of Aston Villa apparently also suffered from a similar fate, ‘Milosevic was also in conflict with the club with a contract as high as mine and the same thing happened.’
The personal invasions were not limited to Almeyda’s garage, ‘One day my wife comes home and hears voices inside. She ran away and called the police. There was a message on the wall, made with machine oil, a message from the mafia. My wife had a premature birth. Following the 2002 World Cup I've never been back to Parma.’
Perhaps the most damaging insight into Italian football culture are his allegations that Parma was asked to ‘throw’ the deciding Scudetto match against Roma on June 17, 2001. ‘Some companions in Parma told us that the Roma players wanted us to lose the game. I said no and the majority responded that way, but on the field I saw that some did not run as usual so I asked to be substituted and went in the locker room.’
The man known as ‘El Pelado’ (bald one) regardless of his long healthy locks, also details a period of alcohol abuse as his career dwindled at Inter. ‘Once in Azul, my country, I drank five litres of wine, like Coca Cola, and I ended up in some kind of coma.’
For footballer’s looking to write a best selling autobiography my advice would be to seek a move to Italy.
image: © vincentteeuwen