Football: How to corrupt 60 players, by former Italian Serie B pro

MILAN (AFP) - A former Italian Serie B player with links to a "gypsy gang" that placed illegal bets on Asian betting networks has revealed how he corrupted up to 60 professional players before being snared by police wire taps.

Carlo Gervasoni was banned from all football activity for seven years after admitting his role in the 2011 "Ultima Scommessa" (Last Bet) scandal.

It implicated former Italy international and Lazio player Beppe Signori, as well as a number of former Serie A players who were accused of fixing games in Serie B and the lower leagues of the professional ranks.

The investigation was launched in 2011 after a 2010 match between Paganese and Cremonese, when it was alleged players had their drinks spiked in an attempt to hamper their performance. Several fell ill during the game.

Gervasoni may reveal further details about the murky world of match-fixing in an Italian television show to be screened later on Sunday.

In a website report by La Gazzetta dello Sport Sunday, the 33-year-old admits if he had never been snared by police wire taps, he would "still be doing the same thing now".

"I admitted everything because they caught me with the wire taps and I was afraid of going to prison", Gervasoni said.

Worryingly, the practice may still be going on. Gervasoni says he can no longer look at football the same way.

"I have a lot of doubts. Now, I don't watch matches the same way, I'm a lot more sceptical," he said.

"You can see from the attitudes of players, or from some reactions that are over the top."

In 2006 Italian giants Juventus were stripped of two league titles and demoted to Serie B for their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal, in which police found six teams to have rigged matches by selecting favourable referees.

Yet the severity of those sanctions did not prevent Gervasoni, and others, from making what he said was easy money over a two-year period.

He fixed his first game in 2009 - a Serie B fixture between his team, Albinoleffe, and Pisa - allowing his "gypsy gang" collaborators to reel in the profits.

"They would place their bets on Asian sites, where the money is harder to trace and the financial anomalies were not so easy to identify," he said.

"It also helped that they were betting live, during the game."

The underworld figures gave Gervasoni "100,000 euros (S$160,000) to share out" among the 60 or so players he corrupted, and reduced their chances of discovery by changing his telephone SIM card "every 30 days".

He explained: "I fixed a dozen games that I played in, then I tried to fix others that I wasn't involved in. And it was easier to corrupt the Italians than it was the foreigners.

"I can't say exactly how many I contacted to fix games, it's complicated because there is still a case ongoing, but I was in touch with around 60.

"From that 60, only two said no: one Italian and one foreigner. The Italians were always reticent at first, but once they got their bribe before the game it was much easier."

Asked about his motivations, Gervasoni was blunt: "I did it for the money. I can't say how much I earned. I was already earning around 10-15,000 euros a month as a footballer.

"I wasn't sleeping well, but there was a positive adrenaline rush." He added: "I'm no hypocrite. I felt like shit. I was hoodwinking my own team-mates because sometimes I was playing against them.

"I've repented, I made a mistake but I did it, fundamentally, because it allowed me to earn so much money in such a short space of time."