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Aug 23, 2012

Furious Conte calls ban 'absurd'

Juventus coach Antonio Conte has given his first press conference since his appeal against his ten-month suspension was dismissed by Italian authorities and labelled the whole investigation "absurd". The head of his legal team also confirmed they are seeking a full acquittal rather than just a reduction from the original sentence.

• Conte ban upheld

Speaking just 24 hours after discovering his ban would remain in place, the Juventus coach was visibly furious and made clear his views on the trials; the chief prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi; and the player who accused him of involvement in the match-fixing at Siena, Filippo Carobbio.

"I've always respected the rules, on and off the pitch. I have behaved correctly throughout this whole affair." Conte told reporters. "Yesterday seemed to be the icing on the cake. I was left appalled by what was said by one of the commission's judges, who, perhaps in order to make the papers, said some unusual things."

Conte tried to plead his case via the media, in an attempt to show his innocence, after having his punishment upheld.

"I've never placed a bet in my life, but I've become an advert for the betting scandal," he said. "They judged Pippo Carobbio, who they painted as my best friend, as a reliable and credible person, while the federal prosecutor has deemed me not credible. What the federal prosecutor said is chilling.

"I would consider a plea bargain to be blackmail. I'm an innocent person, yet I'm told by my lawyer to plea bargain. It's embarrassing. They have ruined my credibility in the changing room. Those people who know me know what type of person Antonio Conte is."

He feels he is the victim in this case, and is keen to explain to the wider public what he feels are the injustices involved.

"It's all absurd. Everyone needs to understand what has been done to me because it is embarrassing. Now I'm afraid to argue with one of my own players," Conte explained to the media. "If I send one of my players into the stands then this type of thing can happen. They believe the word of someone who has been selling games for three and a half years, someone who sold his family.

"What can I do? Take a camcorder with me everywhere which records my every move? This type of thing can now happen to anyone. Today it has happened to me; tomorrow it could happen to one of my colleagues or a player. People need to open their eyes and not put their heads in the sand."

Conte and his lawyers, as well as assistant Angelo Alessio, whose own ban was reduced from eight months to six on Wednesday, will now continue their quest for a full acquittal with the Italian Olympic Committee's appeals board.

The move was confirmed on Wednesday by Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus president, via a statement on the club's website: "I would like to reaffirm my support and that of Juventus for Antonio Conte and Angelo Alessio, who are currently fighting this system, which needs to be reformed from the ground up. I trust that the judicial bodies of C.O.N.I., who we will be appealing to immediately, are able to resolve this grave injustice, which has damaged and continues to damage the club, something which needs to be assessed and quantified. Anyone who thinks this summer's judicial proceedings might affect our season is seriously mistaken."

The verdict of that appeal is not expected until late September and it remains unclear whether Conte's ban will be suspended until that time or if he will remain absent from the touchline.

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