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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

March 30, 1980: Lazio Catanzaro 2-0

Updated: May 6

The kids are alright


In one of the most dramatic games in Lazio’s history, D’Amico takes a team full of young players and guides them to a miracle win.




Ticket owned by Dag Jenkins, photo by Dag Jenkins

The season so far


Lazio have had bad years, but the 1979-80 season must be considered as one of the worst in their history.


Lazio did not have much money and could only afford minor signings. In came Filippo Citterio from Palermo, Vincenzo Zucchini from Pescara and Enrico Todesco from Como plus the return of Mauro Manzoni, who was on loan to Cerretese, and Maurizio Montesi, who had been sent to Avellino for a year.


Lazio said goodbye to scudetto hero Luigi Martini, who left to play in the NASL, Franco Cordova (Avellino), Paolo Ammoniaci (Palermo) and Aldo Cantarutti (Pisa). Roberto Badiani, Andrea Agostinelli and Pietro Ghedin were loaned out.


The Biancocelesti started relatively well and in the first 9 games lost only one against Inter and even beat Juventus. This game came after a derby that nobody had wanted to play.


On October 28 Rome was ready for the first derby of the season. An hour before the match, Vincenzo Paparelli was sitting in Curva Nord having a sandwich. From the Curva Sud Giovanni Fiorillo fired two flares towards the Lazio Curva. They zig zagged over the top. For the third attempt, the Roma supporter lowered his aim. The flare hit Vincenzo Paparelli in the eye and killed him. He was 33 years of age and had two children.

Source Wikipedia

What happened then was complete chaos. The Lazio fans did not want the game to go on but the police decided that it was best to play for security reasons. In a climate of warfare with few Lazio supporters left in the stands, the game was played. Every time the ball went into the stands with Lazio supporters, the fans did not give the ball back. Captain Pino Wilson and Bruno Giordano were forced to go under the Curva Nord in an attempt to calm down the Laziali. The game was a farce and finished 1-1. In the last minutes there was a clear penalty for Lazio but the ref decided that there was no way he was going to make matters worse. A game and day nobody will forget.


At the start of game 10 the Biancoclesti were in fourth place and only 4 points behind leaders Inter. But in the next 15 games Lazio won only once and after the game lost at Pescara they were fourth from bottom, just three points above Catanzaro.


Then an already bad and tragic season got even worse. At Pescara Wilson, Giordano, Lionello Manfredonia and Massimo Cacciatori were arrested for match fixing.


Rumours that there was something wrong in Serie A had begun to circulate earlier in the year. At Cagliari 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. He said that Wilson was the man who was organising all of this in the Lazio team.


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 middle of it.


But in all of this there was a very important game to be played: Lazio vs Catanzaro. If Lazio had lost, the Biancocelesti would have almost certainly gone down to Serie B especially because without Giordano, Manfredonia, Wilson and Cacciatori the chances of survival would have been very very slim.


The match: Sunday, March 28, 1980, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


Bob Lovati had the difficult task of deciding which players would be substituting the four “rogues”. He chose two young players from the Primavera team: Riccardo Budoni in goal and Carlo Perrone as sweeper. Perrone had already played a few games in Serie A for the first team over the last couple of years, but for Budoni it was a first.


Lazio started the game really well and in the first 15 minutes had several chances, but then a comprehensible fear set in and they started to retreat to defence. Catanzaro, perhaps feeling sorry for Lazio and distracted by the fact that they themselves would stay up anyway since a number of teams were going to be punished with relegation, should have exploited the great opportunity but instead only had a couple of chances in the first half. In the 23rd minute Carlo Bresciani, after having dribbled Budoni too, incredibly missed a golden chance by shooting wide and later missed another opportunity.


In the second half Lazio doubled their efforts and attacked constantly. The Biancocelesti finally scored in the 72nd minute when Captain Vincenzo D’Amico went into the box on the right, dribbled past a defender, and then from an almost impossible angle put the ball in the back of the net.


Ten minutes later Mauro Tassotti crossed a ball high in the box and Giuliano Groppi, frightened by the presence of Renzo Garlaschelli behind him, lobbed the ball over Antonio Trapani for Lazio’s second goal.


Lazio were almost safe thanks to a bunch of kids captained by D’Amico. One could always count on Vincenzo when the going got tough.


Who played for Lazio


Substitutes: Avagliano, Todesco

Manager: Lovati (Giancarlo Morrone was on the bench for this game since Lovati was suspended)


Who played for Catanzaro


Trapani, Sabadini, Ranieri, Menichini, Groppi, Zanini, Borelli (63' Chimenti II), Orazi, Bresciani, Nicolini, Palanca.

Substitutes: Mattolini, Mauro.

Manager: Mazzone.


Referee: D’Elia


Goals: 72’ D’Amico, 82’ Groppi (og)



What happened next


After this win Lazio needed just a couple of points to secure a place in Serie A and with the draw against Napoli with two games to go, Lazio were mathematically safe.


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, Maurizio 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 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.


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.


Manfredonia and Cacciatori (front, third and fourth from right) in court. Source Wikipediain court

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 for 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.


It would take Lazio three seasons to get back to Serie A.


Lazio 1979-80

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals Scored

Serie A

30

5

15

10

21

Coppa Italia

6

3

3

-

9

Total

36

8

18

10

30

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Citterio

36

30

6

D'Amico

33

28

5

Viola

33

28

5

Tassotti

32

27

5

Zucchini

30

25

5

Cacciatori

30

24

6

Top goal scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Giordano

12

9

3

D'Amico

5

4

1

Garlaschelli

5

2

3

Zucchini

5

4

1

Let's talk about Carlo Perrone


Carlo Perrone centre, Beppe Savoldi left and Paolo Pochesci right. Official SS Lazio photo

Carlo Perrone was born in Rome on October 12, 1960. He grew up at Lazio and started playing for the Biancocelesti as a kid. He was a very promising and skilful sweeper, many thought when Pino Wilson quit, Perrone would take his place.


He debuted in Serie A under Luis Vinicio, when on February 5 1978 he substituted Lionello Manfredonia. He had to wait until the last game of the next season to play again for the A team but he played regularly in the Primavera championship and won a Coppa Italia in 1978-89.


After the arrest of Giordano, Manfredonia, Wilson and Cacciatori, Bob Lovati threw him into the Lion's den and he played the last six games of the 1979-80 season. In Lazio’s first year in Serie B after the relegation, he partnered with Paolo Pochesci at the centre of defence. Lazio narrowly missed out on promotion.


In 1981-82 there was a rare transfer agreement between Lazio and Roma: Perrone and Michele De Nadai crossed sides of the Tiber. Perrone played just one year for the Giallorossi with a handful of appearances. He was back at Lazio for the 1982-83 season and the Biancocelesti were promoted.


The next year he signed for Ascoli in Serie A and stayed four years, three of them in Serie A. In 1987-88 he signed for Lecce in Serie B and a year later with Avellino. He ended his career in 1990-91 playing for Lodigiani in Serie C2.


Once he quit football he became a manager and coached a number of lower level teams, including Salernitana in three different stints.


At Lazio he will be remembered as a skilful player who never fulfilled expectations. He played 8 games in Serie A with the Biancocelesti, 56 in Serie B, 13 in Coppa Italia and 6 in the Intertoto Cup.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances

Serie A

Serie B

Coppa Italia

Intertoto Cup

1977-78

7

1

-

-

6

1978-79

3

1

-

2

-

1976-80

6

6

-

-

-

1980-81

40

-

34

6

-

1982-83

27

-

22

5

-

Total

83

8

56

13

6

Sources


Vincenzo Di Michele: Pino Wilson – Vero capitano d’altri tempi; Fernandel 2013.

Giancarlo Governi: Bruno Giordano. Una vita sulle montagne russe; Fazi, 2017.

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