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Anti-Mafia judge insists Italian game must come clean

ROME, May 14 (Reuters) - An anti-Mafia magistrate investigating allegations of match fixing called on Sunday for soccer's elite to come forward and help him clean up a game that has been tainted by scandal.

In a newspaper interview on Sunday, Giuseppe Narducci, who spent 10 years battling Naples's notorious Camorra gangsters, said he and other magistrates were 'undertaking an extraordinary investigative effort' to clean up Italian soccer.

'The time for chatter is over,' Narducci told La Repubblica daily. 'Whoever knows something must find the courage to come forward and tell the magistrates. For the world of football this is a one-and-only chance.'

While no one has admitted guilt in the scandal which has rocked some of Italy's top clubs, the allegations have stunned football fans as the season reaches its climax and just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup.

Seria A champions Juventus could clinch the league title again on Sunday if they avoid defeat against Reggina, but fans' joy will be muted by the constant media reports of phone taps apparently showing senior Juve officials trying to influence the choice of referees at key matches last season.

One of the stranger incidents involves Juve's general manager Luciano Moggi, the man known as 'Lucky Luciano' who has become the focus of media attention.

As well as the chats with referee selectors, in one phone call Moggi boasts to a friend of barracking a referee after Juve lost to Reggina 2-1 in 2004, finally locking him in the changing room.

'I gave them all hell, then I locked them in and took away the key,' reads the transcript.


The scandal has cast a cloud over Italy's hopes of winning the World Cup. On Monday coach Marcello Lippi has to brave the press and present the squad he will take to the June 9-July 9 finals in Germany.

In one strand of the multi-tentacled scandal, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, a crucial player in Lippi's line-up, was questioned by magistrates to see if he broke rules banning players from betting on soccer, something he denies.

The various investigations, and their impact on the game, have been compared with the 'clean hands' probes which led to the Tangentopoli or 'Bribesville' scandal that rocked Italy's political elite in the early 1990s.

Media were quick to dub the football affair 'Calciopoli' ('calcio' is Italian for soccer) and the legal probes 'Piedi puliti' - 'clean feet'.

On Tuesday, Italy's sports authority is due to appoint a 'commissar' to take over the Football Federation, whose chief has resigned amid the chaos.

Among those in the running for the post is former AC Milan player Gianni Rivera who, when asked what he would do in the job replied: 'Football has got too fat in recent years. It's time it saw a doctor to watch out it doesn't get a heart attack.'

The world of business is also concerned by the scandal. Stockmarket regulator Consob has asked the investigators to hand it any evidence of share price interference, a source close to the watchdog said.

Two of the clubs whose officials are under investigation are traded on the Milan bourse: Juventus and Lazio .

The stakes are high for clubs if the allegations stick. Leading financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore said Juventus could lose £80million in sponsorship and television rights if it were to be demoted from Serie A over the affair.