Modena (Italy): Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has admitted he feels hurt by the latest match-fixing scandal which has threatened to overshadow Italy`s Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia here on Friday.
On Wednesday news of an organised betting ring emerged involving, most notably, former Italy striker Giuseppe Signori, supposedly the ring-leader.
He was one of 16 people arrested (nine of those, including Signori, were placed under house arrest) under suspicion of trying to fix games to win bets.
Commenting on the affair Prandelli said: "I don`t feel betrayed, 99 percent of football consists of enthusiasm and values but it really hurts to hear this news.”
"We all try to promote the right values but there`s too much temptation and too much to gain.”
"The message we have to give is it`s not easy to earn money, you have to sweat and work hard.”
"At times it`s much easier to look for these (dishonest) solutions. There`s no justification but if we really want to change something we have to think about this.”
"There are 1,600 registered footballers (in Italy) and we can`t just say it`s a minority.”
"We have to be hard, we have to fight this criminality while people are still young.”
"Unfortunately there are many people who just want to get money by any means but we have to show (the young) how to avoid this.”
"We have to fight against these scandals."
Asked what he would say to Signori next time he saw him, Prandelli took on an almost fatherly role.
"On a human level our relationship will never change," he said.
"But we have to always remember we have a big responsiblity. Sometimes a hug could be the best thing.”
"I`ve read many articles in which he said betting was his life but life is not a bet, it`s a gift."
A six-month police operation came to a head on Wednesday as ex players, current players, team directors and betting shop employees were amongst those arrested.
An investigation that began in Cremona discovered the existence of a criminal syndicate in which everyone had a specific role with the view to manipulating matches in the organisation`s favour.
The suspects managed to fix certain results through verbal agreements and payments.
It is not the first time Italy has been hit by a match-fixing scandal.
It is only five years since several clubs were punished for their part in the infamous Calciopoli match-fixing scandal in which teams asked for specific referees, known to be friendly towards them, for their matches.
Juventus were relegated and stripped of two league titles while AC Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Reggina were all hit with point deductions.
And in 1980 a pools-based betting scam saw Italy forward Paolo Rossi, most notably, condemned to three years in prison, although it was later reduced to two, allowing him to play in the 1982 World Cup.
I was very emotional on the podium and I broke down into tears because this was my first Asian Games after missing the two previous Asian Games, partly because of a doping allegation in 2006 when I was innocent.