MILAN: Italy coach and future Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) welcomed the end of “a nightmare” after being acquitted of sporting fraud charges that left him at risk of a prison sentence.
“Four years ago when they came to search my house at five o’clock in the morning it was the start of a nightmare period that seemed never to end,” Conte said in a statement on his Facebook page after the decision by a tribunal in Cremona.
“Today, finally, it’s the end of this horrible story.”
Prosecutor Roberto di Martino had requested a six-month sentence and a fine of 8,000 euros ($9,063) for Conte, as well as similar sanctions for his former assistant at Siena, Angelo Alessio, following accusations they failed to report episodes of match-fixing while in charge at Serie B side Siena in 2011.
On Monday, the Cremona court acquitted Conte of the charges because of his “lack of involvement in the facts”, allowing the 46-year-old to lead Italy into this summer’s Euro 2016 before he takes over as Chelsea manager following the tournament.
Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio said earlier he welcomed the news with “great satisfaction” and that it would allow Conte, who is set to name a preliminary 30-man squad for Euro 2016 later Monday, to now fully focus on the job at hand.
“It was with great satisfaction that I heard news of Antonio Conte’s acquittal by the Cremona Tribunal today,” Tavecchio told the ANSA news agency.
“Finally, his position has been clarified. My faith in him was never up for discussion. Now, we can be even more concentrated on the European Championships.”
Conte, who in 2012 served a four-month ban in relation to the affair, had been accused of not reporting an episode of match-fixing relating to a Serie B match with AlbinoLeffe from May 2011 when he was coach of Siena, whom he led into Serie A the following season before being appointed coach of Juventus.
Although former players and other figures were implicated, Conte was the most notable.
But Conte has always denied any wrongdoing in an affair in which players allegedly colluded with underworld figures to fix matches and recoup the rewards of an illegal betting network.
A lawyer for Conte, Francesco Arata, said last month: “He’s a total stranger to the betting world and that’s why he will be cleared by the judge.”
Conte added: “As I have always said, even to those judging me, I’m a man of sport and I don’t know any other way to be successful than through sacrifice and dedication.
“It’s been a terrible experience but I held my head high. To everyone who stood by me I want to express my gratitude, and reassure them that the person who has emerged from this test is stronger and even more determined.”
Alessio, Conte’s assistant during three title-winning seasons at Juventus and now with him at Italy, risked a four-month sentence but was also acquitted.
The affair, however, has yet to reach its conclusion and could see former players Beppe Signori, one of the top players in Serie A in his prime during a five-year spell with Lazio, among others, feel the full force of the law.
The report said “up to 90” people are involved although Signori, Cristiano Doni, Gigi Sartor and Mauro Bressan — all former Serie A players — as well as current Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, are all in the dock facing accusations of transnational sporting fraud.
Of those accused, Mauri is the only active player although he has already been sanctioned for his role in the affair.
Mauri served a six-month ban for failing to report match-fixing, meaning he missed most of the start of the 2014-2015 season, returning to the fray on February 2014.