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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Eugenio Fascetti

Eugenio Fascetti is a Lazio hero. Manager of the famous -9 season and the year after which saw the Biancocelesti promoted to Serie A, he was also, though briefly, a Lazio player in the 1964-65 season. If it was not for him, today we would not still be talking about this glorious club.

Eugenio Fascetti is first from the right kneeling. Source Wikipedia

He was born in Viareggio on October 23 1938. After having started his football career in the youth teams of Pisa, he began his professional career with Bologna where he played from 1956 to 1961. He could have played for Lazio since he was tried out in a training match on June 7 1956, but he was not signed by the club. He actually debuted in Serie A against Lazio on October 7.

In 1960-61 he joined Juventus and won a scudetto, but he made just two appearances. In 1961-62 he moved to Messina. In the first two years he played in Serie B and then a season in Serie A when the Giallorossi islanders got promoted. In 1964 he signed for Lazio. It was not a very strong team and the Biancocelesti only just managed to avoid relegation. He made 13 appearances (12 in Serie A and one in Coppa Italia). At the end of the season, he returned to Messina. After a year he went to play for Savona for a couple of years and closed his active football career with Viareggio and Fulgorcavi.

Once he retired, he became a manager. He started in 1971 from where he left off, at Fulgorcavi Latina, taking them from the sixth tier to Serie D. After having passed the manager course at Coverciano, he was appointed head coach of Varese. The team, in his four years at the club, did very well. In his first year Varese were promoted to Serie B and in the squad there were two players Fascetti would coach in his Lazio days: Antonio Elia Acerbis and Silvano Martina. In his first year in Serie B, the club avoided relegation in the last game of the season by beating Pisa 4-0. In 1981-82 they just missed out on promotion to Serie A.

Leading Serie B after the first half of the Campionato, they slowed down a little bit in the Spring. So, with four games left in the season they were fourth (three went up), just one point behind the three leaders Pisa, Verona and Sampdoria. Two games later they were fourth, two points behind Verona and Sampdoria and one from Pisa.

The penultimate games were Pistoiese-Pisa, Sampdoria-Rimini, Pescara-Verona and Lazio-Varese. After 15 minutes Varese were winning 2-0 and playing splendidly. Then Lazio equalised in two minutes with a Vincenzo D’Amico brace (a penalty and a free kick). In the second half a second penalty was awarded to Lazio and D’Amico scored his hat trick. Fascetti to this day believes that the foul on Alberto Bigon was non-existent and that Varese were robbed of promotion. The Lombards lost out on Serie A by just two points.

In 1982-83 Varese came 10th, but Fascetti had left two games from the end. The year after he was at Lecce. In the first season the Giallorossi came fourth, missing out on promotion by three points. Having learnt their lesson, Lecce came second the year after and were promoted in Serie A. The year in the top tier was rather negative since they ended last with just 16 points, but they were nonetheless one of the protagonists.

Juventus won the first 8 games of the season and at the end of the first half topped the Serie A table four points ahead of Diego Maradona’s Napoli. Roma, coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson were far behind. After 24 games they were second, but the Bianconeri were five points away. At that point the Romans started reducing the deficit, starting with a 3-0 win against Juve. Three games to go and the gap was just one point and in the next game they were level. In the penultimate match Juventus were playing at home against Milan and Roma against Lecce. The Apulian team had lost every single game away that season except one. As all Laziali are well aware, in town the general idea was Roma had already won the scudetto. Roma fans, media, everybody was celebrating the third scudetto. Eriksson was trying to calm everybody down and saying that there were still two games to be played, but the Romanisti, as usual, were not listening. When CIccio Graziani scored after seven minutes, that was the end of the Campionato. The eye went off the ball and Alberto Di Chiara equalised and then Juan Alberto Barbas scored a brace. Roma 1-Lecce 3. Roberto Pruzzo reduced the deficit with 8 minutes to go but in the end Lecce won. Juventus beat Milan with a Michael Laudrup goal and the scudetto was gone. A great afternoon for all Lazio supporters!!!

After Lecce, Fascetti became Lazio’s manager. After a dismal previous season with big financial problems, everything seemed geared to try for promotion to Serie A. But there were other problems.

On May 2, 1986, Armando Carbone, right hand man of Italo Allodi was arrested. Allodi was a well-known figure in Italian football and worked for a number of clubs, including Juventus and Inter. In 1986 he was working for Napoli. Carbone told the magistrates that there was a match fixing association with clubs at all levels involved. Numerous clubs were investigated: Bari, Napoli and Udinese in Serie A, many more in Serie B and C. Plus Lazio.

Why were Lazio involved? Carbone was a good friend of Claudio Vinazzani, a Lazio player. Vinazzani had played for Napoli for seven years before joining Lazio in 1983. He did like to bet but never on matches where he played.

In Italy one could not legally bet on the result of a single game or on the scores of multiple games. There was just the Totocalcio, where one had to guess the result of 13 games. There was however an illegal betting system called Totonero run by illegal bookmakers similar to how legal bets were organised in the UK. Lazio had already been involved in the 1980 scandal and, despite a total lack of proof or wrongdoing by the club itself, since four players had been involved, Lazio were relegated to Serie B.

If there had basically been nothing in 1980, in this case there was even less. There was a telephone conversation between Carbone and Vinazzani where the former asked whether the Lazio player was interested in “buying” a Lazio win against Palermo. Vinazzani’s answer was vague and nothing happened. The vagueness in the response was an indication of Lazio’s guilt, at least according to the prosecution. For this Lazio were sentenced to relegation to Serie C on August 5.

A difficult summer for the Lazio fans, but a very difficult summer for the new owners, Calleri and Bocchi. “If Lazio go down to Serie C, what are we going to do?” they must have asked themselves. It would have been the end of Lazio; the new owners would probably have backed out. Lazio fans mobilised, there were demonstrations and protests. It was simply not possible to relegate Lazio for nothing.

The appeal started on August 21 with many Lazio fans outside the Hilton hotel in Rome waiting to see what would happen. Carboni should have testified but the court refused to have him present. The decision to be made was therefore to be based on the material provided in the first court case. Hence, the written declaration from Carboni saying that Lazio had nothing to do with the match fixing and that he never fixed a match for the Biancocelesti could not be used.

On August 27, Lazio had to play Napoli at the Olimpico for the Coppa Italia. Minutes before the match, the Italian State Television, RAI, announced that the sentence had been confirmed. An overzealous member of the court had leaked the news. This ultimately saved Lazio. The court could not confirm the previous sentence otherwise it would have lost face. In the end Lazio stayed in Serie B but with a docking of nine points. This was still a very heavy burden with only two points for a victory, but it at least meant that the new owners could continue.

Source Wikipedia

Fascetti told the players: “This is the situation. You can leave, and it would be perfectly normal if you did, or stay and fight. Decide”. All the players stayed.

The start of the season was terrible. Lazio drew the first game away at Parma but lost a home to Messina. This basically meant that the burden was as if it was -11.

After the catastrophic beginning Lazio started to win and reduce the handicap. After 8 games the Biancocelesti finally had a +1 in the table and were only two points from safety. The relegation zone was left in the 15th match with an away win at Cagliari. Lazio played very well and showed to be far better than the others in Serie B. At the end of the first half of the season they were 16th, three points above the relegation zone.

Towards May however they started to tire. Being under constant pressure was taking its toll. Four losses, two draws and just one win meant that, with one match to go, Cagliari were already in Serie C, Lazio and Taranto were on 31 points, Campobasso, Sambenedettese, Vicenza and Catania on 32. Last games of the season Bari-Sambenedettese, Messina-Campobasso, Taranto-Genoa, Cesena-Catania, Lazio-Vicenza. Even a win may not have been enough.

The game meant life or death for Lazio and the fans filled the Stadio Olimpico a long time before kick-off. When the players came out two hours before the start, they could not believe their eyes. The Olimpico was packed. Everybody who could had brought with them a flag or a scarf and the Stadium was all light blue and white.

Lazio attacked, and attacked, and attacked again. At 7 minutes from the end, it was still 0-0. The Vicenza goalkeeper, Ennio Del Bianco, was saving everything possible. Then Gabriele Podavini tried a shot but he miss-kicked it. It became an assist for Giuliano Fiorini who scored. The Biancocelesti won but it was not over. Final verdict: Vicenza, Catania and Cagliari in Serie C, Lazio, Campobasso and Taranto to a playoff, to be held in Naples.

In the first game the Biancocelesti lost to Taranto with a goal blatantly in offside. Then Taranto and Campobasso drew the second game. So, coming into the final match, Lazio had to win to stay in Serie B. A goal by Poli in the 53rd minute allowed the Biancocelesti, the players and the fans to come out of this long nightmare. The -9 team would all be heroes and remembered forever.

Official SS Lazio photo

For the 1987-88 season, Lazio were finally ready for promotion. There was a lot of expectation, especially because the promotion slots were increased to four since Serie A was going to expand the number of teams from 16 to 18, but Lazio started slowly. After the first 10 games Lazio were 12th, not too far away from the promotion zone, but still not in a great position. A couple of wins pushed them back up but then seven consecutive draws, five of which consecutive goalless draws, did not give them the boost that was needed. At the end of the first half of the season they were fifth, one point from fourth place.

The situation improved in the second half of the season and Lazio lost only three games. But it was tough. With six games to the end, seven teams were involved in the fight for Serie A. Bologna and Atalanta were slightly ahead of the others, Lecce were one point above Lazio who in turn were a point ahead of Catanzaro, Cremonese and Bari.

The most important game of the season was Catanzaro-Lazio. Catanzaro by winning could have overtaken Lazio and it was 1-0 for the Calabrian Giallorossi when the referee indicated three minutes of injury time. With just seconds to go Paolo Monelli equalised and Lazio kept fourth place. Catanzaro managed to catch up with Lazio anyway with three matches to go but it only lasted one game. Lazio-Taranto was the last game of the season. Bologna and Lecce were already promoted, Lazio and Atalanta had a one-point lead over Catanzaro. The Biancocelesti beat Taranto 3-1 and finally reached the agonised Serie A.

But Fascetti would not lead Lazio back in big time football. President Gianmarco Calleri had sold Monelli to Bari against the manager's wishes. This resulted in a big argument and everything was put on the table, all the negativity of the past two years, the interferences in the team management especially by Renato Bocchi, the other Lazio owner, the transfers. As a result, Fascetti was shown the door and in came Giuseppe Materazzi.

Fascetti then started at Avellino in Serie B and finished seventh. In 1989-90 he was head coach for Torino, again in Serie B, and led the Granata to promotion but then did not stay. Fascetti took over Verona and led them to Serie A in 1990-91. The following year in Serie A he was sacked due to poor results. In 1993 he coached Lucchese but was sacked in his second season.

In December 1995 he took over from Giuseppe Materazzi (revenge is sweet) at Bari in Serie A but could not avoid relegation. However, the next season the Galletti went straight back to the top tier and stayed there for three consecutive years. In the fourth Fascetti was sacked towards the end of the season.

In 2001 he was appointed manager of Vicenza but was substituted after 18 games. He was supposed to be head coach of Fiorentina in 2002 but the club went bust. His final two years as a manager were with Como.

After he quit management he did some punditry for Rai, together with Vincenzo D’Amico, commentating the Serie B results.

In his career Fascetti managed to win promotion to Serie A five times with five different teams: Lecce, Lazio, Torino, Verona and Bari. Plus, a promotion to Serie B with Varese. But his masterpiece was keeping Lazio alive despite the -9-point penalisation and for this we will be eternally grateful.

Lazio Playing Career



Serie A

Coppa Italia







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