The legendary Gianni Brera christened it the Derby d’Italia. Lately it could be re-named the Calciopoli Derby. But whatever you call Saturday’s crunch match between Juventus and Inter, it’s the biggest game in the Calcio calendar. The recent history is well known. Off-the-field bickering between the two clubs has reached ridiculous heights since the referee-fixing scandal of May 2006.
But when the Bianconeri and Nerazzurri clash on the pitch, there’s a whole lot more history that takes the field with them. Common wisdom has it that the bad blood emanates from 1961 and the clash in Turin which was a virtual title-decider. After a pitch invasion caused the game’s abandonment an FIGC Disciplinary Commission originally awarded a 2-0 victory to the Milanese side, giving them the edge in the Scudetto race.
But amazingly, just a day before the final round of fixtures the decision was reversed and the two sides were ordered to replay the match. Juventus’ home draw against Bari the following day gave them an unassailable three-point lead over Inter – 2-0 losers at Catania in a game best remembered for radio reporter Sandro Ciotti’s infamous call of “Clamoroso (unbelievable) al Cibali.”
With Juve now assured a 12th Scudetto and the Beneamata crying foul over the influence of Bianconeri president Umberto Agnelli in the decision to have the game replayed – Agnelli was also head of the FIGC at the time – Inter supremo Angelo Moratti ordered coach Helenio Herrera to field his Primavera side for the rescheduled fixture in protest. The resulting 9-1 victory for the Old Lady came as a surprise to nobody, and only served as a statistical reminder of the fires that had been stoked between the two sides. This remains Juventus' biggest ever Serie A win and Inter's heaviest defeat, a source of pain for Nerazzurri legend Sandro Mazzola (below) who scored the lone goal for his team that day.
Brera’s moniker for the rivalry – coined in 1967 – seemed to be an exaggeration during the late 1980s and early 90s as both sides fell into the shadows of Il Grande Milan, but in 1998 it was given some credence by a fresh controversy in another Scudetto decider at the Delle Alpi. With the home side 1-0 up from an early Alessandro Del Piero goal, Inter launched a spate of attacks on the Juventus goal and seemed to have been rewarded when Ivan Zamorano caused havoc in the penalty area and Ronaldo was clattered by Bianconeri centre-back Mark Iuliano’s blatant body check.
Referee Paolo Ceccarini astonishingly waved away Inter’s penalty appeals as play continued and within 20 seconds he’d awarded the home side a spot-kick after Taribo West’s reckless challenge on Del Piero. The combination of decisions in such a short space of time brought scenes of wild protest from coach Luigi Simoni and his players. But the damage had been done and, though Del Piero had the penalty saved by Gianluca Pagliuca, Juventus went on to win the match – and the title.
Ceccarini’s performance dominated the national press for days and was even discussed in parliament. The footage of those contentious 20 seconds has gone on to become one of the most replayed pieces of football on Italian TV. It is also regularly used by fans across the country as the most obvious example of the influence wielded by tainted former Bianconeri chief ‘Lucky’ Luciano Moggi (below) during the Calciopoli era.
Though Moggi was long suspected of having a distasteful hold over Italian football administration, it wasn’t until the summer of 2006 that his power was uncovered in all its full, ugly detail. The subsequent suspension of Moggi and demotion of his Juventus side to Serie B marked a new chapter in Calcio history, one in which the Derby d’Italia moved into the boardroom. With the Bianconeri being forced into a fire sale Inter pounced, snapping up star men Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Patrick Vieira for cut-price fees.
Though Juve initially accepted their punishment there has since been a string of accusation claiming the Nerazzurri were behind the wire-tapping of Moggi’s and refereeing delegates’ phone calls which brought about the fall of the Calciopoli era. Only this week Moggi has repeated his claims that the whole episode was fabricated by enemies of the Old Lady.
This Saturday could see the start of a new episode in the soap opera of Juventus-Inter clashes as the two meet head-to-head as true title rivals for the first time in a decade. But whatever the outcome, controversy will surely not be too far away.
Kris Voakes, Goal.com