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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

February 8, 1981: Palermo Lazio 0-2

A return to form


Lazio manage to collect the two points after five winless games with a good match against Palermo.





Source SS Lazio Museum

The season so far


The previous season had seen Lazio relegated for the Totonero scandal.

 

Rumours that there was something wrong in Serie A had begun to circulate earlier in 1979. At Cagliari Maurizio Montesi broke his leg and from the hospital spoke to the few journalists who went to see how he was. He was alone, none of the Lazio players had had the decency to drop by. He started talking of match fixing, agreements between clubs over results, and illegal betting. 

 

In Italy one could not legally bet on the result of a single game or on the scores of a series of 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.

 

Match fixing had always been a problem in Italy and taken place since the early 1950s. Clubs and/or players would agree to share points during the season in a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” system. But then the players started to bet on these games. It was easy money, they knew what the result would be so why not have a little wager.

 

Alvaro Trinca was the owner of a restaurant in the centre of Rome where Lazio and Roma players would often go and eat before games. Massimo Cruciani was a fruit seller and was very friendly with a number of players. Both would hear the players talk of match fixing and therefore started to bet and win large sums of money. They teamed up and devised a plan which was to offer money to the players to fix games as well as bet money for them.

 

Their plan failed miserably and they were hugely indebted with people with whom you do not want to be indebted with. Apparently, they first asked the clubs for money but not all wanted to pay, then they presented their case to the Italian Football Federation but that was not going to solve the debts, so they then tried by resting their case with the law. They were later both arrested and started talking to the magistrates.

 

On March 23 1980, the Italian police arrested a number of players of Lazio, Milan, Bologna, Avellino, Genoa and Perugia. The scandal had exploded and Lazio were right in the thick of it. Bruno Giordano, Lionello Manfredonia, Massimo Cacciatori and Pino Wilson were among the players arrested.

 

Once the season finished there was the Sport Justice court case regarding the match fixing. The Lazio players were allegedly involved in the match fixing of Milan Lazio that ended 2-1 for the hosts and Lazio Avellino which finished 1-1. 

 

The first sentencing between May and June gave Cacciatori and Wilson a life ban, Giordano and Manfredonia an 18-month suspension, Montesi four months and Lazio were fined 10 million lire. At the time fans thought that all in all this was acceptable.

 

Others had even worse sentences. Milan were relegated (there was a direct involvement of the club President), Avellino, Bologna and Perugia given a 5-point penalty. Among the various players, Enrico Albertosi got a life ban and Paolo Rossi 3 years.

 

The Lazio fans looked at the appeal case with optimism. They were wrong. Lazio were relegated to Serie B for the game against Avellino, Giordano and Manfredonia got a three-and-a-half-year suspension, Cacciatori 4 years and Wilson three years. Paolo Rossi’s suspension was reduced to two years, Albertosi to four.

 

Why were Lazio relegated? There was no legal reason since none of the club managers were involved. The only reason was the fact that the first sentences were considered too lenient and the Sports Justice system wanted to set an example. Hence, Lazio, always everybody’s favourite scapegoat, were relegated because it had a large number of players involved. But others were involved far deeper and got off lightly or with no penalisation at all. Lazio were a sacrificial lamb to keep the media happy.

 

Were the players guilty? Who knows. Wilson has hardly ever spoken about it. In his official biography though, he admitted having reached an agreement with some Milan players regarding Milan-Lazio. The plan was to let them win in Milan and Lazio in Rome. The Biancocelesti did not have much of a chance in Milan and the points at the end of the season could have been useful in case of a battle to stay in Serie A. He had nothing to do with betting, as also shown in the case files and his name appeared only for the Milan match. But Montesi accused him of being the ring leader, probably because a name had to be mentioned so to save himself he chose the player that had less to lose.

 

These types of agreements had always happened in Italian football, this was no different from other similar agreements like in the last matches of the season when one team needed a point to stay in Serie A and the other maybe a point for a UEFA Cup qualification. The games would practically be non- starters. This is a violation of every Sports Code, and if the agreement is reached among clubs, if found guilty, these should be relegated or given point deductions. And if it is between players, these, if found guilty, should be suspended. If the players take money all that has to be done is to verify and check.

 

Manfredonia stated in an interview that he paid a rather large price compared to what he actually did. So maybe when Wilson announced that they were going to lose the Milan game, he complied. He did not play the match against Avellino, so he can’t have been guilty for that.

 

Giordano proclaims his innocence to this day. In his official biography he claims that Trinca and Cruciani tried to blackmail President Umberto Lenzini who refused to pay. When the magistrates asked him if he had got some extra cash Giordano denied it, saying “check my bank statements”. This is probably what they did and as a consequence none of the players were found guilty in the legal court case.

 

Where does the truth lie? A few facts are almost certain. Milan- Lazio was fixed by the players. The club had nothing to do with it. The rest is just speculation. Lazio, some Lazio players and Lazio fans paid a very high price for the Italian Football Federation's need to find guilty parties, whether they were actually guilty or not. And unfortunately, it would not be the only time. Claudio Vinazzani’s friendship with a Neapolitan illegal bookie, who was fixing games, translated into a 9-point deduction for the 1986-87 season, despite Lazio not being involved. President Claudio Lotito’s requests for decent referees would cost Lazio a 30-point deduction in the 2005-06 season and 3 points the following one in the Calciopoli farce. Stefano Mauri’s friendship with a player who fixed games cost him a six-month suspension and jail time, even if he was innocent.

 

Lazio had invested a lot for the 1980-81 season and even signed Rene Van de Kerkhof, the Dutch star, but he could not play in Serie B so the deal did not go through. 

 

Other players signed were Alberto Bigon and Stefano Chiodi from Milan (with Mauro Tassotti going the other way), goalkeepers Maurizio Moscatelli (Pistoiese), Aldo Nardin (Lecce) and Dario Marigo (Chieti), defenders Giorgio Mastropasqua and Arcadio Spinozzi (both from Bologna), midfielders Dario Sanguin (Vicenza) and Giuseppe Greco (Torino). Saying goodbye to Lazio, apart from Tassotti, were hero Vincenzo D’Amico (Torino), Antonio Lopez (Palermo) and Vincenzo Zucchini (Vicenza). Andrea Agostinelli and Roberto Badiani were sent on loan to Pistoiese, Stefano Ferretti to Empoli.

 

The manager was rising star Ilario Castagner who had led Perugia to a historic second place just a couple of seasons earlier.

 

Lazio started 1980-81 with the Coppa Italia. In the group stage they were paired with Pescara, Varese, Verona and Ascoli. They won all of the games with the exception of a draw with Ascoli, hence winning their group. 


After 15 games Lazio were top of the table with a one-point lead over Milan and four over third place (the first three were promoted). A long way to go yet but there was optimism. The Biancocelesti had won 7 and drawn 8 and had not lost yet. Chiodi had started playing in the beginning of November and had scored three goals.


Then came Lazio Milan, first game of 1981. The Rossoneri easily won 2-0 and installed a doubt in the players mind. “Perhaps we are not as good as we thought”. After that match they lost at Cesena, drew at Vicenza and at home with Taranto. They were second but with seven teams in four points, it was very tight.


The match: Sunday, February 8, 1981, Stadio La Favorita, Palermo


This could have been a difficult game for the Biancocelesti, not having won a match since mid-December. But they started really well and were soon in control of the match. In the 16th minute a Nando Viola-Giuseppe Greco one-two allowed Bigon to collect the ball just outside the box, beat two defenders for speed and shoot. 1-0 for Lazio.


Palermo reacted and Fausto Silipo had a chance but his header was too high. Edigio Calloni also had a couple of opportunities to score in the 40th and 57th minutes but wasted both of them. The Biancocelesti however did not waste theirs. In the 65th minute Mastropasqua began a counterattack, ball to Chiodi who passed to Greco just outside the box. Great shot, 2-0 for Lazio.


At this point the Rosanero gave up and Lazio almost made it three in injury time when a freekick from Greco, deflected by the wall, hit the crossbar.


Good game from the Biancocelesti after a number of poor results.


Who played for Palermo

 

Frison, Ammoniaci, Volpecina, Bencina (72' Vailati), Di Cicco, Silipo, Montesano, De Stefanis, Calloni, Lopez, Lamia Caputo (72' And. Conte).

Substitutes: Oddi, Borsellino, Pasciullo.

Manager: Veneranda.

 

Who played for Lazio

 

Substitutes: Marigo, Perrone, Cenci, Garlaschelli.

Manager: Castagner

 

Referee: Casarin

 

Goals: 16’ Bigon, 65’ Greco



What happened next


Lazio managed to stay second until mid-April, then Cesena overtook them.


In mid-May with five games to the end of the season Lazio were third, two points clear of Genoa. Then, enter referee Alberto Michelotti. In the home game against Sampdoria, there was a corner for Lazio. Mastropasqua crossed, Gianluca De Ponti tried to head the ball but blatantly handballed it. A clear penalty right under the eyes of the linesman. But Michelotti had no intention of listening to him and the linesman no intention of changing the ref’s mind. Lazio lost that game and Genoa won. Milan first on 46 points, Cesena 42, Lazio and Genoa 41. In the next game Cesena won, Lazio and Genoa drew. With three games to the end came the mother of all games at the Olimpico: Lazio-Cesena. The Biancocelesti needed to win and they did, so with two games to go all three teams were tied on 44 points. Final home game Lazio-Vicenza.


The Biancocelesti were very nervous and played terribly. Claudio Vagheggi scored for the Vicentini in the 55th minute, Paolo Pochesci equalised a quarter of an hour later. In the 87th minute, penalty for Lazio. Biancocelesti supporters invaded the pitch in celebration. It took forever to take the spot kick but everybody was sure that Lazio had won, Chiodi had never missed a penalty, not even in training. He did this time. Genoa and Cesena had won, promotion was lost.


The players with most appearances this season were Citterio and Viola with 43 games and the top scorer was Bigon with 10 goals.


Lazio 1980-81

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

38

13

20

5

32

Coppa italia

6

3

1

2

5

Total

44

16

21

7

37

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Citterio

43

38

5

Viola

43

37

6

Mastropasqua

41

36

5

Perrone

40

34

6

Greco

39

34

5

Top five goal scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Bigon

10

9

1

Greco

8

7

1

Citterio

7

6

1

Viola

7

7

-

Chiodi

6

6

-

Lets talk about Aldo Nardin


Aldo Nardin is first from right standing. Source Wikipedia

Aldo Nardin was born on November 17, 1947 in Gorizia. He started his professional career in 1967 playing for Arezzo in Serie C. In his first season he made 11 appearances but then only 3 in 1968-69. However, that year the team got promoted to Serie B and in 1969 he made his debut, on September 14, in the goalless game at home against Catania.


In 1971 he signed for Varese in Serie A and made his debut in the top tier on October 3 in the match lost against Milan. Varese were relegated but Nardin stayed in Serie A and signed for Napoli as backup goalkeeper. He made just one appearance in Campania, against Ternana but he must have made a good impression since he signed for the Umbrians the following year in Serie B. In his three years with Ternana he won a promotion to Serie A but also an immediate relegation. In 1976 he moved to Lecce and stayed for four seasons, all in Serie B.


In 1980 Lazio had signed a promising goalkeeper from Pistoiese, Maurizio Moscatelli and needed an experienced number 12 so Nardin was chosen. Unfortunately, Moscatelli broke his Achilles’ Tendon on December 7 at Monza so Nardin was promoted to the first eleven. But his reign lasted just 12 games. He alternated good games with very poor ones and was substituted by Dario Marigo for the remaining matches.


At the end of the season he was sold to Foggia where he stayed a year before playing his last professional season for Civitavecchia in 1982-83.


He played two friendlies for the Italy Under 21s and one for the Under 23s.


Once he stopped his active football career he became a manager for a couple of seasons in minor teams before specialising as goalkeeper coach. Eleven years at Ternana, with a two-year interval at Pistoiese, then from 2005 to 2017 at Arezzo.


He died on May 27, 2020, in Arezzo.


Lazio fans do not have fond memories of Nardin, often indicating him as one of the reasons for the missed promotion of 1980-81. But if Stefano Chiodi had scored that penalty against Vicenza we might have had more positive memories of him.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie B

Coppa Italia

1980-81

13

12

1

Sources




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