After the original accusation came the four-month plea bargain; the supposed desire to keep the whole case out of the courtroom. When that was dismissed, there was a 10-month suspension. Eventually, we now come back to square one, with Antonio Conte seeing his touchline ban reduced by six months. Juventus will have their coach back on the bench from December 9 in Palermo, but who wins? Does anyone, really?
If Conte believed he was innocent from the start, surely he could have pleaded as such. He could have gone to the breach, made a fuss, ensured that his clean name was upheld and his innocence proven. Instead, he is at a halfway house. He risked so much by appearing to accept that he was in some way complicit in the match-fixing at Siena, and as a result he was never going to be completely cleared of the charge.
But what of the evidence? The repentant declarations were like clockwork, the vendetta of someone who remained on the ball and never hid. One man can wake up one morning with a bad mood and the desire to settle a score and have you publicly disgraced. And when you finish in the media meat-grinder, with your face printed large across the front pages, how do you defend yourself? You don't even get the time to read the cards, you simply have to attempt to save your ass or risk taking the brunt with a plea bargain. The decision in this case was to take the lesser evil. Those who are innocent do not do deals with the devil, they say. But it is all well and good for them who are not in your shoes. This was the path Conte followed.
|One man can wake up one morning with a bad mood and the desire to settle a score and have you publicly disgraced
Forced to fight, is it not your job to fight? If you did it on the pitch, and you do it on the bench, how much do you do it off the field? An indomitable lion should demonstrate his qualities. Conte took the fall under the accusations, but his desire to return sooner rather than later took the case to TNAS. Evidence was supplied to show that the then-Siena coach did not deliberately leave out Salvatore Mastronunzio, with medical certificates proving the striker was injured. This had been a key point in the earlier decision, and so we returned full circle, with the ban reduced to four months.
It does not take a legal professional to understand that this whole episode has been handled with the improvisation of a beginner, that the affair - if it were not so serious - would have the after taste of a Kafkaesque, almost comical situation, that - from whichever standpoint - demonstrates the inefficiency of a system that cannot be regulated, reformed, or turned on its head. The absurd thing is that the whole case leaves everyone dissatisfied: the accuser, the accused, and the whole gallery.
|The absurd thing is that the whole story leaves everyone dissatisfied: the accuser, the accused, and the whole gallery
Even the judges seem to have found a way to get out of it without making a decision. The final verdict is a thinly-veiled attempt to have it both ways. When in doubt, and in this case there seemed to be little of anything else, they have decided to save only their own bacon. We do not know whether Conte is guilty or innocent and we will now never know, with this judgement leaving a gap between the charge and the defence disgracefully unfilled. The fact is that everyone is left to feel as though the judges did not have a clue as to whether the coach was innocent either. And that should have been enough to acquit him.
But this is sporting justice, they say. Which all means we must hurry to reform it, because otherwise we will not even get a whiff of justice - in any case - for the forseeable future. And this - Conte or no Conte - is the one thing that we do know at the end of this whole regretful episode.