The Derby d'Italia: Inter, Ignorance, and Infamy

Every calcio fan base has a reputation for certain things. For example, Juventini hate when you generalize them as a fan base, which ironically makes them fit the stereotype they claim to hate so much. Milan fans used to be classy, but as we discussed on the last podcast, are now best known for a group of keyboard thugs who called themselves "Milan Twitter" and started terrorizing rival fans, each other, and anyone they felt like. Shocking and disgusting as they may be, there is a club and fan base that has been classless for much, much longer. They are entitled, unaccountable, and took down all of Serie A because they could not win on the pitch. And they still claim they were the victims. I speak of Inter, of course, and their ignorance and infamy made its mark on calcio with one ref call 23 years ago in a Derby d'Italia.

One call to ruin it all

The year was 1998. The season was very competitive. Juventus and Inter were fighting for the title, and in the second Derby d'Italia of the season, with only four games left, Juve came into the match a point ahead. Inter had been crying about referee conspiracies all year, because that is their culture. They have never been able to look themselves in the mirror and say things like "We were ahead of Juve, then we lost four games in a row, we deserve to be in second place." No. They have always blamed others when they lose, and continue to do so to this day. They have zero problems when wrong calls go their way, but will take matters into their own hands if necessary to gain an advantage over their opponents. Or, just crash out of the Champions League and benefit from all of their opponents competing in Europe. Or spend money on players they literally could not afford to pay so they could have the advantage, like last season.

Everyone knew the importance of this match. There were 64,000 spectators on hand at the Stadio delle Alpe in Turin. Inter fans that were not even born in 1998 will swear that the match was fixed, although having just re-watched it after like 20 years myself, I am convinced that they have never watched the full match. Anyone who did would be shocked at Inter's behavior. And also by what actually happened compared to the myths.

Del Piero scored. Inter did not. No more, no less.

Just four minutes in, Del Piero fouled Taribo West and tried to shake hands to show good sportsmanship, but West refused. That was just the beginning. Juve even got the first yellow card of the match. But after Del Piero scored the only goal of the match in the 21st, Inter staff and players wound themselves up into a complete outrage if any call did not go their way. They literally had 31 fouls called their way compared to 24 for Juventus, although there were so many more that went uncalled. The difference was that when fouled, Juventus players jumped back up to play, where as Inter players went to ground easily and harassed the referee nonstop trying to gain an advantage. Their belief was that they were not just playing against Juventus, but a "corrupt refereeing system" in Italy. Their manager actually said that.

About 30 minutes in, Piero Ceccarini, the unfortunate referee in this match, calmly went over to speak to the Inter bench for some reason, apparently a warning. There was an Edgar Davids foul just before the half that earned him a yellow and possibly could have been a red, but it was one of very few actual disputable calls on the night. The Ronaldo, playing for Inter that season and also the top goalscorer in the league, hit the crossbar early in the second half. Most of the second half, Inter troubled Juve, but Ronaldo took at least three free kicks and missed them all. He came so close to scoring so many times, but he didn't. That had nothing to do with referees.

Ceccarini and his linesman were swarmed as they tried to send off Simoni

Inter were emotionally spiraling out of control like a toddler crashing from a sugar high past bedtime. As they set up for a free kick, there was some jostling in the box, as you do, but Inter fans again freaked out about something, and even Pagliuca (who was the captain and goalkeeper) came all the way up to the other end to scream at Ceccarini, for which he earned his own yellow card for dissent. In what was probably about the 65th minute, Simeone fouled Davids, and the Inter players were incensed that the whistle blew. Simeone hadn't even tried to get the ball, and he earned a clear yellow. But it was absolute madness on the center of the pitch, with Pagliuca again out of goal to try to help, and the linesman in the center of the pitch to try to help the Ceccarini, too. Absolutely insane.Things started getting rougher, Del Piero was elbowed in the face, but no call, and Juve's keeper Peruzzi had to actually save a free kick that was on target. As Iuliano was tugging on Ronaldo and earning his yellow card, something happened to Inter's Colonnese off the ball (or at least off camera,) his mouth and chin were bloodied, and he required treatment. Whatever happened to him may have knocked some wires loose, because as the match progressed, he looked like he was going to kill Ceccarini and maybe a couple of Juve players for good measure.

Ronaldo couldn't score that night, so he blamed one call from Ceccarini instead

Why were they so mad? The match was fairly even, and there were actually not any egregious reffing errors. Because in their minds, there was foul play. Before the match even kicked off, they were certain that they were being wronged, when really, they were just losing. Then THE infamy happened. Iuliano and Ronaldo collided in the box, or as Inter fans put it today, "Iuliano full-on body checked him WWE style." They wanted a penalty, and a whistle did not come. Coach Luigi Simoni and at least one other staff member literally and immediately ran onto the pitch in protest, while the ball was still in play. Juve took it to the other end, where Taribo West shoved Del Piero from behind in the box, which is always a penalty, even if the Juve striker was clearly looking for it. And Ceccarini gave it, rightfully so.

But first, as literally the entire Inter team swarmed him, bumped into him, and screamed at him, he had to walk over to send Simoni and his staff member off for having invaded the pitch. That would require the assistance of his linesman and at least one police officer to accomplish because the Inter players would not step away from them and the staff refused to leave. Simoni is also reported to have shouted "shameful" to the referee. He claimed until he died last year that it was a penalty, although he was all the way across the field and Ceccarini was right there. Just so you know how ridiculously hysterical the Inter players and bench were, Antonio Conte, who was playing for Juve, was trying to calm them down. Imagine that.

If Ronaldo shoving your head is a "body check," you might be an Inter fan

Inter fans to this day, after 23 years, are so tied to this one penalty non-call. And yet, after re-watching it, Ronaldo's hand clearly made contact with Iuliano's face first, and Ceccarini was only a few meters away, so clearly saw it, that's why he didn't call it. It was never a penalty, in fact, he says in retrospect, he should have given Juve a free kick. And he is right. Screen caps from the match show it. And even the better pics show that Iuliano's head was turned and he was falling as Ronaldo's body hit his. It wasn't a "body check," it was a collision between two players, and Ronaldo 100% made first contact.

The penalty given to Juve was taken by Del Piero and saved by Pagliuca. You would think they would be appeased that it wasn't converted, but no. It also looked like an Inter player or two infringed on the penalty, as well, but that was not even called. Then Ceccarini had to go over and send off another Inter staff member. Colonnese was still screaming like a wild animal, and Zé Elias, who had been a sub, was sent off for a very dangerous body check in midair on Deschamps that left him seeing stars. Even on ten men, Inter kept attacking. But Ronaldo couldn't score if he was Brad Pitt in a sorority. THAT was the crime on the day. But he did harass Ceccarini all the way into the tunnel after the match. 

Colonnese, with the bandaged chin, had to be held back by multiple Inter players

Fast forward to the all of the Italian Calcio shows, their moviola, and the papers the next day that literally said "Ceccarini, what have you done?" (from a paper owned by Inter's vice president.) And as if enough people hadn't already made assumptions and accusations, there were fights in parliament about it the following week between politicians of rival fan bases or former players. But that had nothing to do with the referee being corrupt, or Juventus gaining favors. They called it "la granda ruberia," or "the great robbery." If Inter could have won, would they have still been so fragile and needed to accuse Juventus of robbery? Of course not. This whole narrative was created by their own conspiracy theory.

This controversy, hyped up by the media, grew into a monster. Inter also called it "la partita madre di Calciopoli," or "the mother match of Calciopoli." That part is true, only it wasn't Juventus giving birth, it was Inter. They had claimed that other referee errors that season all favored Juventus (but, just like today, did not look at the ones that did not.) Just like they claim Juve conditioned the refs, they conditioned themselves and the media by complaining all season long, when all Juve were guilty of was winning (not to be confused with whining, that is Inter's job.) Other clubs began to claim Juventus were influencing the refs if they won or got any call in their favor. This, despite the fact that Juventus were arguably one of the best teams in the world at that time, with Lippi's side featuring players like Del Piero, Pippo Inzaghi, Zidane, Deschamps, and Edgar Davids. They won because they were the best.

Inter continue to taunt Juve, calling them thieves and more, but also claim to be victims

But for Inter, they were absolutely delusional. Sure, they had Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, Diego Simeone and Javier Zanetti. Juventus were still the better team on paper. To this day, everyone at the club and all of their fans believe that the conspiracy they created about Juve was true. They believed it so much so, that they later created a network of former and current Inter sponsors and board members to try to prove it. That became the scandal that was Calciopoli.

Within this network, they used their advantages in the court, in the telephone companies, in the media, and more to spy on and wiretap their biggest competitors and prosecute them. Yet they conveniently hid their own tapes where Moratti and Facchetti were talking to the referees, having them over for dinner, and giving them tickets for matches, merch, and other gifts for favorable refs to be appointed or to call matches for them. More so than any other team, it turns out. They were deflecting their own behaviors onto Juventus, and all of Serie A began to believe it.

They were their own conspiracy.

Juventus were convicted for things that they didn't do, things that Inter were actually doing instead. Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina, and Reggina got points deductions and other punishments as well for their indescretions, but were not punished remotely the same as Juve. This, despite the fact that Milan's crimes were worse than Juve's and almost as bad as Inter's. And the 2005-06 Scudetto was taken from Juve, not given to second place Milan, but rather assigned to Inter, the ones who orchestrated the scandal. Literally, all of the people involved in this process had direct, if not current connections or investments in Inter.

The actual winners of the 2005-06, awarded by Serie A to Juventus and stolen by Inter

This is the very brief simplification of the scandal, you can read the longer version with citations here. Five years later, just after the statute of limitations was up, Inter's tapes and transcripts miraculously turned up, showing that they had influenced the referees more than anyone else. But Moratti, who is known for being a "gentleman," would not waive the statute of limitations and allow the evidence allowed in court, and claimed he didn't want to damage Facchetti's reputation, as he had since passed away.

There have been subsequent trials and appeals related to Calciopoli, as Moggi's accusations against Facchetti were proven true and Juventus tried to get their Scudetti back, amongst other things. Facchetti's voice lives on eternally in all of the recordings, condemning his own reputation. But although Juventus tried, no one could overturn the verdict because of the statute of limitations. Now, if you do a cursory search about Calciopoli, only the rushed, Inter-controlled verdicts condemning Juventus are known, because people were happy to shove it all under the carpet and move on. But if you read on, and especially read the evidence that has been discovered since 2011, it shocks the senses.

The acrimony has continued to grow throughout the years

This myth, that Juventus were cheating and got caught was entirely contrived by Inter. Many of the teams at that time were talking to the referees. Juventus were proven to have never gained any advantage or received any referee appointments, whereas Inter were the most influential in actually getting referees assigned. In fact, the ruling at the time even said that the 2005-06 season was not compromised in any way by the refereeing. But now everyone believes Juventus own the referees, because of Inter's rushed and corrupt management of the Calciopli case and getting Juve relegated unjustly. 

Milan have had our share of controversial calls over the years, particularly against Juve, but they were only that. Most Milan fans never speak about all of the penalties we have been given or other calls that go our way. We've also seen our fair share of referees getting suspended for actually having made the wrong calls. But even the "gol di Muntari" brought about change, in bringing Goal Line Technology (GLT) to Serie A and the world. Yet Milan fans always skip the part in that match that Matri had a goal wrongfully called back in that match, and the result would have been the same if there were no errors. Referees are human, they are not subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse from players, managers, fans, the media, and more to intentionally get it all wrong.

Inter the ultimate gaslighters: "I have never stolen the championship and never been in Serie B"

This referee narrative is just part of some conspiracy made up by small-minded, unaccountable, ignorant Interisti. Juventus have been so successful because they built a stadium, created revenue, bought all the players, and generally ran their club like a business, unlike most other Serie A teams (even if they went too far with Cristiano Ronaldo and are in trouble now.) Their dominance for nine years in Serie A was also based on finances and one of the highest if not the highest valued squad in the league. That has nothing to do with referees, it has to do with wealth and talented players.

The worst of it is that if you talk to Inter fans, even those not born in 1998, they always go back to this match. That one non penalty call, and the subsequent penalty given that was saved. Neither of which changed the game or changed the season. They never speak of the incredibly shameful behavior of the entire Inter team and staff. Clearly, most have never even watched the match, nor do they know the rules or what a penalty call actually is, apparently. They know nothing of their club's involvement in Calciopoli, or how referees and others have testified in court about Moratti and Facchetti asking them to spy or give preferential referee assignments and more. Inter fans never acknowledge that Moratti was infamously convicted of wiretapping his own players, demonstrating a history that backs up the evidence we now have.

Better technology and VAR would help, but Ceccarini stands by his call, and he should

If you doubt any of this, ask yourself one question: how could one single ref call in one single match be so important that it would still be cited by the fans of only one club 23 years later? Why were members of parliament attacking each other over one ref call? How does one non-penalty call lead to a league-wide scandal eight years later that embarrassed a nation and destroyed what had been the best league in the world? While they were simultaneously winning the World Cup? 

The answer is it wasn't. It never was. Inter fans created the narrative, created the scandal, imposed their punishment, took advantage of their rivals, and 23 years later still claim to be the victims.

Don't get me wrong, I have lost all respect for Juventus as a club, and their fans are no better. Juve have other issues, such as giving tickets and favors to their Ultras who have known links to organized crime, etc. Don't get me started on what Milan's wrongs are, especially under Berlusconi and Galliani. I can acknowledge the shame in my club even easier than in other clubs. But Inter fans are ignorant beyond reason, and their unsporting and even criminal behaviors took down all of Serie A, right as Italy were winning the World Cup. They took advantage of their rivals' points deductions and relegation, even getting Juve's players on the cheap, and went on to "win" multiple Scudetti and even a treble, or so they claim. They disgust me beyond all reason, and I have no idea how they even sleep at night. Oh yeah, snakes are nocturnal. Today's Derby d'Italia brings up once again this 23 year-old vendetta-turned-scandal that they themselves fabricated and continue to perpetuate. It's all about Inter, ignorance, and infamy.

This post inspired by the music of Ministry's "Stigmata"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 10
Milan vs. Torino
Tuesday, October 26 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

The Derby d'Italia: Inter, Ignorance, and Infamy The Derby d'Italia: Inter, Ignorance, and Infamy Reviewed by Elaine on 12:00 AM Rating: 5
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