February 18 – A financially destitute Italian third-tier club is under fire for fielding just seven players at the weekend and losing 20-0 in the process – the worst trouncing in the league’s history.
Relegation-threatened crisis club Pro Piacenza fielded six teenagers, one of whom doubled up as coach for the day.
Pro Piacenza had already forfeited three matches and not playing a fourth on Sunday would have seen it thrown out of Serie C. Deducted eight points earlier in the season, they will inevitably be relegated anyway, sitting way below the rest at the foot of the table.
Seven players is the minimum number required but Italian football federation president Gabriele Gravina was furious.
“What happened at Cuneo with Pro Piacenza is an insult to the sport and its founding principles,” he charged.
“Our responsibility is to protect the passion of the fans…and the credibility of our championships. What we unfortunately witnessed will be the last farce.”
To add to the farcical situation the seventh Pro Piacenza player – to ensure the game could go ahead – was their 39-year-old kitman since one of the youth players had reportedly left his identity papers at home and could not start the game. He later came on as a substitute, once his documents had arrived, with the kitman limping off due to cramp.
Pro Piacenza were down 16-0 at half-time restoring a modicum of pride in the second half.
The club’s regular playing and coaching staff had refused to travel to Cuneo because they were still waiting for overdue wages. Local media outlet Sport Piacenza abandoned its reporting of the match, saying readers would be informed of the final result once the “farce” was over.
Francesco Ghirelli, president of the Lega Pro, told Sky Italia: “What happened is an insult to sport and its principles. It’s a black page for football. We can only apologise to everybody, above all the fans. We need to follow the regulations, but today the notion of sporting loyalty was violated, and it has gone too far. Football has its problems, but the parents also have responsibility – why put these young kids through such a disgrace?”
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