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Furious Conte lashes out at judge

Updated: 2012-08-25 10:15
By Agencies in Rome ( China Daily)

Juventus coach Antonio Conte on Thursday hit out at one of the judges who decided to uphold his ten-month ban from football for failing to report suspicions of match-fixing at a previous club.

Furious Conte lashes out at judge

Juventus coach Antonio Conte (second from left) is escorted to the Italian soccer federation disciplinary committee for his appeal in Rome on Monday. [Photo/Agencies] 

"There is one judge who bears a grudge against me as if he were a rival supporter," Conte said at a press conference in Turin.

"I have become the face of this scandal," added Conte, visibly wound up and furious at the decision made by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

"This whole affair is absurd, I can say that now.

"For seven months my name has been associated with this affair, it is libelous.

"I have never gambled, my players know who I am," he went on, insisting that he has "always respected the rules."

"I am innocent. It's a disgrace, it's a disgrace. I can say that because it is finished with them (FIGC) although there is another appeal," Conte told reporters at Juve's training ground outside Turin on Thursday.

"I have always respected the laws on and off the field, in this issue I have acted correctly.

"Yesterday was the cherry on the cake. It was something serious, something I have never seen."

The Siena matches that came under scrutiny for illegal betting were against Novara and Albinoleffe in May 2011. FIGC's appeals tribunal said on Wednesday that Conte had been acquitted over the Novara game but the 10-month ban should stay for the Albinoleffe affair.

Three Juve lawyers, sitting by Conte and assistant Angelo Alessio who has also been banned, launched into long diatribes about the decision not to fully acquit Conte.

They told Thursday's news conference that evidence used in the case against Conte came from a discredited player who could not be trusted. The FIGC disputes this.

"It's absurd, it's absurd. Everything that has happened to me," Conte continued. "I have never bet in my life."

Juve, although not directly involved this time, has a history of having to deal with match-fixing. Italy's best supported and most successful team domestically was demoted in a 2006 affair and struggled for years before last term's triumph.

Despite Conte's ban, Juve remains the favorite with Italian bookmakers to retain its title this season after AC Milan engaged in cost-cutting and Inter Milan endured another difficult campaign last term.

"I have been accused of not reporting an offense but, if I didn't see anything, what am I supposed to have reported?" Conte said.

"They say I told my players during a meeting that we were going to draw. So that means I am supposed to have told 25 players that we were going to cheat?

"For a coach, that is libelous. I am afraid that, after all this, when I step into a dressing room, I might be taken to task by one of my players.

"I am going to have to have a camera follow me 24 hours a day to show that I don't do anything wrong, otherwise what will people think if I send a player to the stands?"

In an appeal against his ban on Wednesday, a court dismissed the accusation against him in relation to Siena's match against Novara on May 1, 2011.

However, the length of his ban was not reduced.

"I said to myself after that ruling that my ban would be reduced. And yet it wasn't. It's absurd," Conte said.

"I came to a club that is loved by some and hated by others, and I won when people were not expecting it," added the 43-year-old, who also spent the majority of his playing career with the Bianconeri.

"I am not a nice guy because I win, but that is not my problem."

His lawyer, Giulia Buongiorno, who also attended the press conference, added: "We did not get the chance to properly defend ourselves - why did they want to do it all so quickly?"

Conte is now set to take his case to Italy's sports arbitration tribunal (TNAS), a part of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

"I don't like any of what has happened. We have put our faith in a bunch of liars. But let's see what happens next," Conte concluded.