AUTHOR: Matteo Bittanti (concept, execution)
Title: simulacra & simulation
Format: digital video
Length: 7' 58"
Media: low resolution video excerpt
This audiovisual and textual mashup consists of a video montage of televised soccer matches (Italian Serie A) and simulated soccer games (FIFA 09, Electronic Arts). The soundtrack comprises several phone conversations between Luciano Moggi, the former Administrator and General Director of Juventus Football Club, referees and other individuals. The coda features box art stills from FIFA Soccer games and a chant from Juventus fans recorded live at the stadium.
Before the game
"Such is simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. Representation stems from
the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real (even if this equivalence is
Utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Simulation, on the contrary, stems from the Utopia of
the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as
the reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation attempts to
absorb simulation by interpreting it as a false representation, simulation envelops the whole
edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum. Such would be the successive phases of
- it is the reflection of a profound reality;
- it masks and denatures a profound reality;
- it masks the absence of a profound reality;
- it has no relation to any reality whatsoever;
- it is its own pure simulacrum.” (Jean Baudrillard, 1994)
“The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory. Off we go!”
(Herr Schuster', from Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer, 1998)
First Half: Baudrillard on sport
"Politics is no longer restricted to the political sphere, but infects every sphere - economics,
science, art, sport. ...Sport itself meanwhile, is no longer located in sport as such, but
instead in business, in sex, in politics, in the general style of performance" (Baudrillard
You heard it before: we live in a media saturated, hyper-real world, or so French philosopher Jean Baudrillard suggests. The so-called reality is playing a game of catch-up with its simulated counterpart. But it is a losing game. The match is rigged. Simulations are pervasive. There is no such thing as sport any longer. There is no sport that has not been already remediated, to paraphrase Richard Grusin. There is only televised sport, its obscene replica. Baudrillard, via Richard Giulianotti (2004), elaborates:
"Television presents a 'quadrophonics' of sport: all offensive background noise is removed,
while surround-sound audio system amplify and simulate crowd 'atmosphere' to levels that
do not arise in real stadiums. Visually, television provides a 'pornography' of sport:
'interactive' television packages allow viewers multiple camera angles and highlights
packages at any time during play. Key moments during play are viewed from numerous
angles, producing a visual excess of reality that no stadium spectator enjoys [...] Sport is
now organized to fit with these simulated, hyperreal models: the sport stadium qua home-
entertainment lounge pipes in artificial crowd noise and, on giant screens, displays runs of
real events just witnessed by spectators. [...] In sport, 'real' identities seem to arise after
their virtual invention: star athletes seem to conform to earlier, fictitious celebrity identities
and media construction of hooligans seem to prefigure actual hooligans practices."
(Giulianotti, 185, emphasis added)
Cornell Sandvoss (2003) adds:
"The hyperreal, simulated condition is partially manifested in the singular and collective
perspective of televised football. As television represents the game event with ever more
varying shots, angles, positions, and the fragmentation of time through replays and slow
motion, it constructs a new event in itself. The televisual representation of football has
become so detailed and all-encompassing that this representation - much like the map of the
empire - threaten to cover the game in its entirety. Consequently, television football shifts
from representation to simulation - and thereby eliminates the game as its actual referent.
Moreover, the game itself is defined by its own simulation, becoming its shadow rather than
point of reference." (Sandvoss, 146, emphasis added)
Italian football is dead.
It officially imploded in the Spring of 2006, only to be replaced by a zombie-like spectacle that has no meaning whatsoever outside the Matrix.
In May of that infamous year, Italian magistrates uncovered widespread corruption in the professional leagues, Serie A and Serie B. The scandal implicated league champions Juventus and other major teams which had been found guilty of rigging games by selecting favorable referees. It was not the first case of massive corruption and it will certainly not be the last. Corruption is pervasive in Italian culture, at every level of society. It is also explicit, manifest, taken for granted. However, the size and gravitas of the crimes pertaining to Serie A remain unrivaled as of today. This national disgrace, which became known as Calciopoli or Moggiopoli - after Luciano Moggi, aka Lucky Luciano, the 'godfather' of Italian soccer - has been effectively documented by John Foot (2006) in Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer, his monumental treatise on the rise, decline, and ultimate implosion of football in the Belpaese:
"The championship was controlled step by step, from the transfer market to the goal
disallowed at the last minute , from missed offsides to red cards given or not given
according to the level of protection which each player enjoyed [...] Moggiopoli dwarfs every
other scandal in the scandalous history of Italian football. It involves not only Juventus, but
AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio. A whole system is on trial, including referees, the selectors
of referees, journalists, slow-motion replay experts, policemen, agents, tax police,
carabinieri, members of the Agnelli family and even the manager of the national team,
Marcello Lippi." (504, 505)
Additional information is provided by Italian scholars Tito Boeri and Battista Severgini (2008):
"Rather than simply being subconsciously deferential toward Juventus, referees were
actually chosen in advance and blackmailed using the power that the corrupting managers
had over the media. Moreover, the managers of the major clubs could not only control the
assignments of referees to the match involving their own team, but also those of competing
teams. Hence, they could plan ahead of matches with one of these teams, inducing the
referees to give a red card to the strongest player of the opponent in the following match.
Referees not cooperating were banned from the most important matches, reducing their
career prospects. Moreover, major TV shows and complacent journalists (also concerned
about their career prospects) [note 1] were heavily criticizing the decisions precisely of
those referees who did not cooperate." (1)
The puppet masters were Juventus' Administrator and General Director Luciano Moggi, Juventus chairman Antonio Giraudo, and former Juventus player Roberto Bettega - the so-called Triad'. The system, however, included many other accomplices and co-conspirators, including referees and referees nominators (Massimo De Santis, Paolo Bergamo and Pierluigi Pairetto), Moggi's Son Alessandro, sport journalists, and more.
In 2006, Italians experienced a "Matrix-moment": although everybody knew that the entire Serie A was a colossal simulation which bore no resemblance to anything 'real' [note 2] the revelation had a shocking effect on the already damaged psyche of a country in tumult. Like Truman Burbank, millions of Italians unexpectedly spotted the television crew behind the (fake) elevator. They saw the emperor's new clothes. They all had suspicions. But now, the writing was on the wall. "Even in a country where corruption is endemic and where football has never been exempt from such corruption, the sheer barefaced effrontery of it all shocked the scandal-weary Italian public," wrote Paddy Agnew (2007, 307).
The real question is: how was such a pervasive, efficient, and widespread system brought down relatively quickly? [note 3]
Although there are many factors involved - e.g. the diminishing power of the former owners of Juventus F.C, the Agnelli's family - and the shifts in power of a country that still operates on a feudal system - the key factor in the demise of Luciano Moggi was, somehow ironically, cell phone tapping. In fact, the investigators were able to record hours of calls made by the main conspirators with their mobile phones. Foot explains:
"As with Italians politics in the early 1990s, all attempts at reforming Italian football from
inside had failed. Only one body of people was powerful enough to take on Moggi and his
cronies: the judiciary. The investigations which eventually unravelled Moggiopoli were
intricate and geographically widespread. In 2004, an inquiry into the Neapolitan version of
the mafia, the camorra, had uncovered an illegal betting ring involving players and and
referees, and investigating magistrates had ordered phone taps on Moggi's six or so mobile
phones. For eight months, at least six transcribers typed out 100,000 conversations. The
material was to provide the bulk of the evidence against all the accused at the subsequent
series of sporting criminal trials [...] The effect of the phone-tap revelations was
extraordinary, as they allowed every Italian to understand how power really worked. For
once, the mask of arrogance and denial had been stripped away." (505, 507)
Wikipedia provides additional details:
"Investigating the SIM cards, the prosecutors discovered some worrying details. During the
24 hours preceding the matchJuventus-Milan, one of the most important matches of that
championship, played on 18 December 2004, they discovered a series of 13 telephone calls
between Moggi and Bertini, the referee of that match. They also discovered a series of 18
telephone calls between Bertini and Fabiani and another 11 between Fabiani and Moggi.
According to the prosecutors, Fabiani would be the "instigator", the intermediary between
Moggi and the referees. The match finally resulted in a goalless draw and all the press
severely criticized Bertini for not allowing two clear penalties to Milan and for a perceived
clemence with regard to Juventus. Moreover, another wiretapping was recently unveiled by
the Italian daily La Stampa. Although containing nothing truly compromising, in the recording
Moggi and Marcello Lippi (former coach of Juventus and coach of the Italian national team
Italian national team at the time) clearly insult Internazionale's president (Massimo Moratti)
and trainer (Roberto Mancini). Lippi states that Mancini deserves a lesson, and Moggi
answers that Mancini will have such a lesson." (Wikipedia)
The data shows that corruption and manipulation was endemic in the entire Serie A, although the catalyst was Juventus' management. For those who are not familiar with the Torinese team, Foot and Agnew provide an excellent description:
"Juventus are a team of contradictions. A club with something like eleven million fans in
Italy, they rarely fill their home stadium, often playing before paltry crowds in Turin. They
are the most loved of all teams, and the most hated. Millions rejoice when they win,
different millions exult when they lose. Being a Juve player or manager carries massive
pressure. A championship is just another victory, when you have already won it 28 times.
Twice, managers have been sacked after coming second. Dino Zoff was dismissed as a
manager after winning the Italian Cup and the EUFA Cup in the same season. And then
there are the conspiracy theories, petty jealousies, power-games and scandals. Juve can
never win 'normally', they never triumph simply because they are better than everybody
else. There is always something around which suspicion can be constructed - and examples
of 'favouritism' or 'psychological slavery' are not hard to find in calcio's long and
controversial history." (Foot 2006, 85)
"If Fiat was the flagship for Italian industry for much of the last century, so too was
Juventus a standard-bearer for Italian football. Like Barcelona in Catalonia, Manchester
United in England or Real Madrid in Spain, Juventus is much more than just a football club.
To suggest that Juventus had been systematically cheating was not only mind boggling, it
was also to tilt your lance at a very imposing windmill" (Agnew 2007, 23)
As mentioned before, the entire Serie A was corrupted to its core. In the following passage, Foot describes the involvement of AC Milan:
"It was also clear from the outset that this was not a one-club affair, despite Silvio
Berlusconi's constant claims to the contrary and his attempts to paint Milan as a victim of
Moggi's dealings. It turned out, for examples, that AC Milan (Berlusconi's club) had
employeed a 'referee attache': Leonardo Meani - an ex-serie C official and restaurant
owner - who would phone up officials before and after matches, and appeared able to i
influence the selection of linesmen for games involving Milan. Now, Meani was not Moggi,
but he did have a lot of 'friends' amongst the referee corps, and he had a hotline to Adriano
Galliani, the President of Milan until 2006. " (508)
Additionally, the scandal brought under the spotlight several conflicts of interested that permeate Italian Football. For instance, at the time, Adriano Galliani had the double role of vice president and CEO of AC Milan while serving as the president of Serie A. Agnew (2007) wrote:
"In football, too, Berlusconi has indirectly been responsible for a remarkable conflict of
interests when his trusted aide at AC Milan, Adriano Galliani, was voted president of the
Lega in early 2002. This inevitable led to some curious situations. For example, in the
summer of 2005, Galliani ended up handling negotiations on behalf of the Lega for various
TV rights in which the competing rivals were State broadcasters RAI and the Berlusconi-
owned Mediaset. In the end, Galliani awarded the terrestrial TV highlight rights (the
equivalent of the BBC's Match of the Day) to Mediaset thus ending 30 years of RAI's
celebrated 90th minute programme." (127)
As a result of the scandal, Juventus and the other conspirators were penalized. In a long, but crucial passage, Boeri and Severgnini explain:
"The Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, the Italian soccer federation decided that Juventus
should be relegated to the second division (the Italian Serie B) with a deduction of 9 points
in the 2006-7 Championship; A.C.Milan was penalized by 8 points; Fiorentina was excluded
by the Champions League and was penalized with a deduction of 15 points; Lazio was
sanctioned with a reduction of 3 points and the exclusion from the UEFA cup; finally,
Reggina, was sanctioned with a deduction of 15 points in the first division. Very low
pecuniary sanctions were given to the managers presumably involved in match rigging. For
instance, Moggi was given a fine of about 30,000 Euros while his wage with Juventus in
the year in which corruption was detected, amounted to some 2.7 million Euros. Most of
these sanctions had small effects on the budgets of the teams involved, let alone the
budget of managers presumably responsible of these episodes. The only ones to pay were
de facto the supporters of the teams damaged by the corruption events, who found their
favored team relegated to the second division. With the exception of Reggina, all the teams
involved in the corruption episodes had owners with some direct or indirect control over the
media [...] and held a significant portion of TV rights." (10)
Although not directly implicated, other major teams had more than a tangential interest in controlling the tournament. Let's consider, for example, the role played by Internazionale of Milan aka Inter:
"In September 2006 Italian football was shaken again by a new investigation. The head of
the security department of Telecom Italia (Italy's biggest fixed network operator company)
was arrested for having organised a trade of interceptions to public personalities' private
calls. Internazionale was involved in the process from the beginning when Carlo Buora,
Chief Operating Officer of Telecom Italia and vice-president of Inter, being the boss of
Tavaroli, was accused of being involved. During questioning, Tavaroli admitted that the
president of Inter (Massimo Moratti) was one of the customers of this trade, having
requested interceptions of many football personalities among referees, footballers and
officers. Inter was involved only slightly in Calciopoli scandal though Paolo Bergamo
(referee appointing official) claimed, during questioning, that all major teams have the same
level of relations with him and, during public interviews, wondered why not all the relevant
calls that he received from team managers went out during the investigation claiming that
other teams, including Inter, should have been punished too." (Wikipedia)
"Italian justice being Italian justice (even sports justice), the matter did not end there. By mid-
autumn, and after a series of appeals and arbitration hearings, Lazio and Fiorentina were
back in Serie A, with penalties of three and 15 points respectively. AC Milan , too, had their
punishment reduced since they started the season not only in Serie A (with an eight-point
penalty) but also still in the Champions League (at one stage they had been on the verge of
elimination from Europe's premier competition). Only Juventus were left to pay the
maximum price: they failed to get their relegation ruling lifted and eventually started in the
Serie B season with nine point penalty." (Agnew 2007, 313)
The 2006 Italian football scandal was simply a manifestation of larger issue, an issue with many ramifications: political, cultural, and social. In short, Calciopoli is a synecdoche. Foot elaborates:
"As the 1990s wore on, I quickly began to realize that football in Italy was not only a massive
sporting phenomenon, but also something that reflected on, and affected, political, cultural
and social trends. I started to understand that it was almost impossible to comprehend Italy
without understanding soccer, and vice versa. [...] Football and Italian politics were not only
linked, they were symbiotic, and it was unclear where the division between the two lay, if
such division existed at all." (xiii)
At a social level, football operates in Italy as a unifier - the only unifier, a leveller, a pseudo-democratizing force:
"When a number of intellectuals where asked, in the 1990s, what it was that held Italians
together, a fair number cited the national football team. When Italy plays in international
tournaments, Italian flags - normally so rare - suddenly spring up on windowsills and on
rooftops [...] "With the right-wing domination of Italian stadiums in the 1990s, the singing of
the national anthem by fans before or during league matches - sometimes complete with
fascist salutes - became commonplace. Nationalism had made inroads into groups of the
most fanatical spectators." (Foot 2006, 438, 429]
Foot argues that soccer is "like a caricature of Italy. Everything is worse in football than in Italian society as a whole. No financial rules are obeyed but no club goes bankrupt or hardly ever. Not obeying the rules is a thing in Italian society in general but it is worse in football" (Foot, quoted in O'Conor 2008). Moreover, calcio is inherently violent because "Italy is a violent society" (ibidem). Its violence is not only physical, but also social, cultural, and political. Writing before the scandal erupted, Tobias Jones (2003) noted: "The extraordinary thing is how much the football-fixing debates mirror, almost word for word, discussions about Mafia or terrorist association" (81). Jones has further investigated the peculiar collusion between football, politics. Consider this passage:
"[T]he country is based upon very few powerful oligarchies. It's not dissimilar to the
Renaissance, with a dozen important families who have carved up the spoils of the country,
because it is, invariably, a "family thing". The same surnames recur again and again,
regardless of whether you're talking about politics, television, football, regardless of
whether you're reading a contemporary newspaper or one from the 1960s. The sons and
brothers (occasionally a sister or a mother) become part of the footballing entourage, which
is often an apprenticeships before they enter Parliament or start editing the family's
newspaper. Many of the sons of famous club bosses are "agents", which mans that they
take a percentage on every deal done by their fathers. There's no notion of a conflict on
interest, due to the desperation, the absolute determination, for strapotere, all
In short, Italy is football and football is Italy.
Ironically, Winston Churchill came to the same conclusion well before the Age of Berlusconi. He famously said that "The Italians lose wars as if they were games of football, and lose games of football as if they were wars" (Quoted in Guido Santevecchi, 2008).
The degenerated state of Italian football reflects the degeneration of Italy as a political and cultural entity. Italian journalist Emanuele Gamba (quoted in Foot 2006), explains:
"Many commentators argued that the scandal showed how Italy really worked. Emanuele
Gamba argued that Moggiopoli 'is very similar to the country in which we live.' Moggi's
system was not just about football. He was a powerful man, and power in Italy allows you
to procure favours, bypass rules, regulations and normal procedures, obtain free and
unwarranted help and services. [...] The law meant nothing; as such the phone taps
(collected in two huge books running to some 700 pages in total) are a fascinating insight
into the way Italy functions. In Italy, large numbers of people were willing to do Moggi's
bidding, and it was unlikely that the disappearance of one man would remove the culture
which created the system. As Marco ravelli has written, 'the ethical and aesthetical
catastrophe of the triad (Moggi, Giraudo and Bettega, ed) reflects the anthropological
degeneration of contemporay Italy." (511-512, emphasis added)
Another equation, almost a syllogism: if football is Italy and Italy is football, then Italy is Berlusconi and Berlusconi is Italy. Consider these two passages from Foot:
"Berlusconi's political success was closely modelled on football. His supporters are just
that - supporters or fans, personally, of him, Berlusconi. His party - Forza Italia! - formed
clubs that were a 'combinations of Lions slubs and ultra's organizations'. After long
research, Berlusconi's advisers came to the conclusion that the only language that unites
Italians was to do with football. Half of the electorate are self-confessed fans, after all. In
June 1994, just after taking control of his first government, he promised to 'make Italy like
Milan', and he wasn't talking about the city." (376-377)
"Many studies have underlined the ways in which Berlusconi's language is both televisual
and sport-based: he 'took the field'; his organization is a 'team'; he often explains political
debates in tactical terms. However, what has often been overlooked is both the territorial
aspects of the link to Milan (as a Milanese team, but also one with a strong national
following) and the symbiosis between the control of the media - especially television - and
the success of the club, combined with the political visibility of Berlusconi in the 1990s. In
a country where the best-selling newspaper is entirely dedicated to sport, and mainly to
football, and where refereeing decisions are discussed for years, and often lead to
parliamentary debates, the control of one of the top three football teams in the richest
league in the world, and the identification as president with that team's (frequent victories),
has been a crucial factor in Berlusconi's rise to political power at a national and local level
[...] By 2004, there were no more line dividing between Berlusconi-the-prime Minister and
Berlusconi-the-Football-President, although many still complained when Silvio used his
football power to make political points on sport programmes in the middle of an election
Following Benito Mussolini's example, Silvio Berlusconi has used sport to further is own political agenda. Mussolini de facto invented Serie A, as Agnew explains:
"It as during the 20-year fascist dictatorship of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, however, that
Italian football really made the world sit up and take notice. Mussolini was convinced that
his totalitarian regime had to stake out a moral dominion over every sphere of the individual
citizen's life, including sport and recreation. [...] In the foreword to a book by Olympic a
athlete Ugo Frigerio in 1933, Mussolini had written: 'Sporting achievements enhance the
nation's prestige and they also prepare men for combat in the open field and in that way
they testify both the physical well being and moral vigour of the people. In 1926, Mussolini
purged the entire national set-up, re-organizing football along lines 'more consonant with t
he new life of the nation'. He even tried to convince people that the game was not an
appropriation from the dreaded inglesi, but rather the logical development of the old
Florentine calcio. Mussolini's 1926 reform not only re-organized the administration of
football (basing it in Rome) but, more importantly, also ensured him direct control of all the
appointments to the sport's governing bodies. It was therefore a Fascist controlled FIGC
which instigated the first truly national league championship in the 1929-1930 season (until
then, there had been northern and southern leagues). In many senses, then, it could be
argued that it was Mussolini who invented Serie A." (56, emphasis added)
Berlusconi, however, went much further. Here, the politician and the tifoso, the salesman and the telemarketer coincide. The personal becomes political. The political becomes personal.
As Jones explains in this long but illuminating passage:
"One of Berlusconi's first legislative acts when he came to power in 2001 [...] was the
"falso in bilancio", or "false accounting," legislation. The new law, in fact, begun under the
previous government, but new amendments were added which fitted Berlusconi like a
bespoke suit. The very crime of which Berlusconi had so often been accused was, in his
first foray into government, turned into a minor infringement. [...] Cooking the books had
effectively been decriminalised. Basically, in future, businessmen would face fines instead
of prisons and only if denounced by their own shareholders. The actual amendments were
conceived by the Judicial Affairs Committee, whose chairmans, Gaetano Pecorella, and
another lawyer, Niccolò Ghedini, both double as defence lawyers for Berlusconi. There
were two major implications for the legislation. First, since false accounting was only a
crime if denounced by affected parties (a shareholder or a creditor), it was obvious that
something as mundane as the state, trying to impose taxes on company profits, would be
impotent. Second, since prison terms were drastically reduced, the statute of limitations -
the practice whereby a crime is no longer a crime after a certain period - was cut from
fifteen years to seven and a half. That simple amendment meant that the Lentini case,
which had taken the sheen off Berlusconi's achievements, would be washed away. It
happened too long ago to be taken into consideration. It had passed its "crime-by" date.
Then, a year and a half later, another piece of government legislation was tailor-made for
the footballing industry. It was called, grandly, Salva-Calcio. It meant, basically, that a
club's debts could be deferred over a ten-year period, whereby a costly injection of cash
could be legally avoided. Clubs which had been paying extravagant sums for an to players
suddenly realized the bubble had burst and were given more time to put their houses in
order. It was, effectively, like saying that the game, rather than lasting ninety minutes,
would now last three hours because one side was losing. Antonio Mereu wrote the next
day on the front page of Gazzetta dello Sport: "With this scandalous law, accounting
irregularities have been legalised which gravely injure justice and overturn normal
behaviour and good sense". Not for the first time, it appeared that rules in football were
elastic." (Jones 2003, 103)
Commenting on the televisual, hyper-real nature of Italian football, Jones wrote:
"Another consequence of the oligarchical power structure of football is that the sport has become seamlessly linked to the demands of the modern media. Since so many club owners are, first and foremost, media magnates, they both epitomise and encourage the conflation of sport an television. Throughout the 1990s, the face of football was completely changed by pay-per-view and extravagant television deals: games were deferred to suit scheduling or advertising, Sponsors litter not only the shirts but the pitch and the hoardings and the dugouts. [...] [T]he income from television has exponentially increased. It now represents 54 per cent of the income of Serie A." (86)
Asides from the recurrent scandals - which are episodic and usually motivated by a lobby's loss of power - the "simulation" factor permeates other aspects of Italian football and Italian culture at large. Cheating, for instance, is pervasive to the point that it is practically enforced. Consider this passage:
"Diving and feigning injury and other forms of cheating are officially frowned upon, and there have been a number of (failed) attempts to punish these acts over the years (such as the use of slow-motion replays to ban dives and feigners). Particlarly obvious dives or acts of cheating are met with outrage. But this outrage is usually directed at the referee who has 'bought' the dive, and not at the protagonists of the cheating. Gianluca Zambrotta was heavily criticized after he admitted diving to win a penalty . Cheating is frowned upon (by the victims and by some 'neutrals') when it works - but only because it has led to a wrong decision by the eternal magnet for all blame - the referee - and not for any moral reason. Cheating is thus not seen as morally wrong, just as pushing into a queue in a post office or failing to pay your taxes are not seen as morally wrong" (Foot 2006, 236, emphasis added)
Another factor that contribute to the hyperreality of Italian football - its inherently simulated nature - is doping. Ongoing investigations have simply uncovered the tip of the iceberg. Once again, Juventus has been at the center of the storm and its players have not been sanctioned for reasons that have little to do with law. Foot explains:
"In November 2004, the sensational judgment came in. The Juventus doctor was guilty of supplying and amninistering illegal substances, including the banned substance EPO, although the club escaped direct punishment. This was a typical Italian compromise. The court had found that doping had taken place, involving Juventus, but they couldn't prove the club had ordered the drug use. [...] Later in 2005 a shocking home video was leaked to the press which showed Fabio Cannavaro, then with Parma, injecting himself with something before a big game some years earlier. Cannavaro claimed that the substance had been 'vitamins' . In December 2005, however, the appeal verdict came in. Everybody at Juventus was absolved of the crime of 'sporting fraud'. The appeal court decided that the law at the time did not see what had happened as a crime, and the EPO had not been used. Antonio Giraudo was joyous, claiming 'justice has been done.'" (Foot 2006, 268)
Juventus chairman reportedly said:
"This is a triumph for justice... For years we've been offended all over the world because of a theory that has now been destroyed, both in legal terms and for its suppositions. We have suffered very serious damage to our image. Who will ever repay us for that?" (Giraudo, quoted in Agnew 2007, 239)
Ironically, Giraudo was subsequently investigated over transfers, suspected falsified accounts, and tax evasion. Facing public shame, Juventus' entire board of directors was forced to resigne on May 11 2009. Juventus were relegated to the second division, stripped of their last two Serie A titles and had 30 points deducted from next season's total. The verdict had a shocking value in a country where nobody ever gets punished for anything [note 4].
The same cancer that killed the professional league is now spreading into the real of 'real' soccer, e.g. the amateur leagues:
"Greed enveloped the world of football in the 1990s, leading to some very nasty side-effects. Promising youngsters were taken on at the age of seven and eight and tempted - along with their parents - with stories of vast wealth and false promises. Many young boys suffered at school, and physically, because of excessive training, stress and psychological pressure to perform. There were even cases of doping of ten and eleven year-olds. The competitive nature of the youth system - with money involved right from the start, crowds, pushy parents and agents - exacerbated these problems. For these kids, football was no longer a game, not even a sport, but a business right from the start. Even a cursory glance at a boy's football game in Italy revealed that many young players were already copying the most unattractive features of the professional game - diving, play-acting, arguing with the referee, tactical fouling. If these players were the future, the future was bleak." (Foot 2006, 496)
There is not such thing as 'real' football in Italy.
The map precedes the territory.
Italian football is a simulacrum.
Second half: FIFA Soccer
"The afternoons I spent playing football - we used to play for seven or eight hours without
stopping - were undoubtedly the best of my life. It almost makes me want to cry, if I think
about it" (Pier Paolo Pasolini, quoted in Foot 2006, 296)
"You Play, They Obey" (Tagline, FIFA 06)
FIFA, also known as FIFA Football or FIFA Soccer, is the most popular football video game of all time. Released annually by Electronic Arts under the EA Sports label, the game has sold million of copies since its debut in 1993. It uses an official license from Fifa, the governing body of football, which means that EA can legally reproduce exclusive league and teams from around the world, including the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A, the Spanish Primera Liga, the German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1 and the US Major Soccer League. The game realistically simulates the players' physiognomy and idiosincracies. The box art always features some prominent footballers. In recent years, Electronic Arts has enhanced the online component of the game. Players can play online via their console and computers. David Rutter, the producer of FIFA 09, explains:
"Between FIFA ’07 and FIFA ’08 we saw a unique user increase of 200%, but the difference this year is much, much higher. We had a ridiculous number of online games played over the first couple of weeks - about 35 million in the first two weeks, on PS3 and Xbox 360 alone. We had nearly a million players register over the first few weeks and around 300,000 players coming on every day. Anyone familiar with online gaming stats will recognize that those figures are phenomenal. Just to be clear, that’s 35 million games of football, not just 35 million people playing. I mention that distinction because of this year’s 10 vs 10 mode which has changed the dynamic of online sports gaming, and the culture in so many ways." (David Rutter 2008)
"Electronic Arts has released FIFA 09 statistics, revealing that around 1.25 million games are played online every day. The number of games played daily represents a 321 per cent increase over the the previous title in the series, and makes FIFA 09 the most popular EA Sports game online. In total, over 141 million games of FIFA 09 have been played on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 since the game's European launch last September." (James Lee 2009)
Football videogames - such as the FIFA Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer series - represent an idealized version of football. They embody the perfect platonic reality of soccer. That is, they are closer to the idea of soccer than actual soccer. It comes as no surprise that professional football players emulate their simulated equivalents and try to match their digital counter-parts, mostly because their avatar are controlled by players who are actually playing the game rather than simulating it for other purposes. As game researcher Steven Conway has concluded, playing football videogames "is a highly cathartic, intertextual and often social experience for the user. Whether wearing a rare football shirt, imitating a famous celebration, or speaking in sport vernacular, the gamer is consciously creating a socially-motivated communiqué." (emphasis added). Videogame players are really playing the game that the so-called professionals are simply simulating.
As Baudrillard (1996) wrote in The Perfect Crime, "Games are serious, more serious than life" (133). Gerry Coulter explains:
"Unlike reality, which incessantly demands we believe in, the illusion of the game (which the gamer never really believes in) does not hold such a requirement. For Baudrillard, it is precisely because the gamer does not believe in the game that he or she enters into a more necessary relationship with the rules of the game. Here society and the law are replaced by a symbolic pact with the rules - a series of ritual obligations [...] - that are, for Baudrillard, an order of fate. All are equal before the arbitrary rules of the game in a way we are not equal before law in society [...]. The game is a very severe place of rules where wealth and social standing have no purchase" (2009, 360)
In The Plague of Fantasies, Slavoj Zizek (1989) argues that today’s virtual realities and simulations are “not virtual enough”. Virtual reality and videogames leave nothing to the imagination, or – in Zizek’s Lacanian terms – to fantasy. In Italy, Serie A operates as a structuring fantasy of reality. That is, even though everybody knows that football is corrupted and rotten to the core, like so many other aspects of Italian society, nonetheless, it gives Italians a sense of meaning, a sense of belonging. Serie A is a mirror of Italy. To believe in a corrupted football competition is to believe in the concept of Italian-ness. Fifa Soccer, on the other hand, does not simulate corruption well enough, therefore, it is a failed simulation. Therefore, Fifa Soccer is Real football.
Simulated football is Real.
Real football is Simulated.
Agnew, Paddy (2007) Forza Italia. The Fall and Rise of Italian Football, London: Ebury Press.
Baudrillard, Jean (1993) The Transparency of Evil: Essays in Extreme Phenomena, London: Verso Books.
Baudrillard, Jean (1994), Simulacra et Simulation, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Baudrillard, Jean (1996) The Perfect Crime, London: Verso Books.
Boeri, Tito & Servergini, Battista (2008) "The Italian Job: Match Rigging, Career Concerns and Media Concentration in Serie A", Social Science Research Network, Discussion Paper Series.
Convay, Steven (2009) "'It's in the game' and above the game: An analysis of the players of sports videogames", Paper presented at DiGRA conference 2009, London.
Chaplin, Heather (2007) "Is that Just Some game? No, it's a cultural artifact", New York Times, March 12.
Foer, Franklin (2004) How Soccer Explains the World, New York: Harper.
Foot, John (2006) Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer, New York: Nation Books.
Giulianotti, Richard (2004) Sports. A Critical Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Lee, James (2009) "1.25 million games FIFA played online every day", GameIndustry Biz, February 10.
O'Conor, Sean (2008) "Interview with John Foot. The Author of Calcio talks to Sean O'Conor", Soccerphile.
Rutter, David (2008) "FIFA's online future", EDGE, December 12.
Sandvoss, Cornell (2003) A Game of Two Halves: Football, Television, and Globalization, London: Routledge.
Santevecchi, Guido (2008) "Is English football really the best in Europe?", The Guardian, April 1
Wikipedia, "2006 Italian Football Scandal", last accessed Sept 1 2009.
Zizek, Slavoj (1989) The Plague of Fantasies, London: Verso.
Raffaelle Guariniello ("well-known and meticulous Turinese investigating magistrate [...] who had been one of the few people in Italy to stand up to FIAT" (Foot, 267); Francesco Saverio Borrelli (Italian magistrate); Douglas Wilson (game designer, game scholar), and Paolo Sorrentino (film director).
This project began a couple of years ago. Giving a talk at GDC 2007, I suggested that Sensible Soccer should be considered one of the most important game in history because, unlike the so-called 'Real' soccer, it is much closer to the idea and the experience of sport than the actual Serie A "professional" games. For additional information, see Heather Chaplin's "Is that Just Some game? No, it's a Cultural Artifact", New York Times, March 12 2007.
#1: An obvious corollary is that that Italian sport journalists are dealing with simulations and simulacra, which makes their job, and ultimately, life, rather meaningless. In fact, they spend their own existence reporting something that has no value or authenticity whatsoever. It comes as no surprise that most sport journalists are also intrinsically depressed and weary. In short, if advertisers are (overt) liars, sport journalist are (indirect) charlatans, mere pawns in a grandiose game of chess. They are not knowledge workers, but agents of the Matrix.
#2: Consider this passage from Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World (2004), which was written and published well before Calciopoli made the headlines:
"The result is that Juve and Milan can often rig the system to assign themselves the most mediocre, provincially minded referees, who are (subconsciously) more deferential towards their prestige clubs. [...] Other referees who have issued critical penalties against Juve have found themselves working games in the lowly Serie B. [...] Only on a few occasions have some of the submerged sordid details come to surface. [...] Undeniably, the benefits of friendly refereeing accrue to Juventus and Milan more than any other clubs in Italy. What’s shocking [...] is how often Juventus have won the championship at the end of the season on a piece of dubious refereeing. It is worth seeing with one’s own eyes the phantom penalties that have deprived Juve’s opponents of vital goals. You’ll see clips of the ball crossing Juve’s goal line, yet inexplicably not counted against them. [...] Even though Juve committed more fouls than any club in the league, they received the least red cards, a statistical inconsistency that defies logical reckoning. [...] [G]ranted Juve a dubious penalty for a transparent piece of thespianism, where the cause of a player’s flop to the ground could not be explained by any known law of physics." (Foer 2004, 170, 174)
#3. Maybe, a more appropriate question would be: Why/how was the existing system replaced by a newer one?
#4: Discussing the 2004 doping case, Agnew wrote:
"Sadly, I found the whole Juventus trial predictable. It fits in with an Italian judicial syndrome whereby we move from initial, media-driven clamor through a complex, often difficult trail, which ultimately ends in acquittal. In some senses, that syndrome has been seen at work in a whole series of post-war Italian trials - Moro, Ali Agca, Andreotti, Berlusconi, Bologna, Piazza Fontana. The list goes on." (249).
La Grande Storia della Juventus, 01 Distribution, 2008.
"Premiazione Juventus 2004-2005", Mediaset. 2005.
FIFA 09, Electronic Arts, 2008.