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Fiorentina tied to immigration sting

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Investigators have requested Viola financial documents to help track the movements of illegally-registered players.

Italian Football Federation Press Conference
Let’s not get on this guy’s bad side, please.
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

In what’s one of the crazier stories since, well, Fiorentina were maybe kinda funding DPRK a little bit, the Procura (public prosecutor’s office of Italy) has discovered a pattern of several professional and amateur sides illegally altering immigration documents for young African players, which has resulted in charges of sporting fraud. Contrary to what that accusation usually means (especially in Italy), these have nothing to do with gambling or match-fixing. Instead, the charge is that various teams are breaking national and FIFA regulations on immigration. And, before anyone panics, Fiorentina don’t seem to be at fault in the slightest.

Serie C’s AC Prato and amateur outfit Sestese (who are based out of Florence suburb Sesto Fiorentino) are the only teams that have been found in violation so far, but a host of others, particularly in Serie C, Serie D, Eccellenza, and Promozione (the latter two are the top levels of amateur calcio in Italy), have been accused of involvement as well.

The basic scheme at play here is the creation of false passports for underage African players, many from Côte d’Ivoire, at the Italian embassy in Abidjan. These fraudulent documents were used as evidence that the footballers were children of foreign nationals already living in Italy, allowing them to enter the country without a lot of difficulty. The kids would then be brought to northern Italy—mostly Tuscany, but also Emilia-Romagna and Umbria—to play for amateur teams there.

So where does Fiorentina enter into all this? The Procura has requested access to Viola financial documents to help determine the transfer movements of at least one illegally registered player. Nobody has accused Fiorentina of any involvement in the scheme to ship these kids into Italy, but they may have unknowingly brought one of the victims into their academy. Given the concentration of the scheme in Tuscany, it’s not surprising that a few of the players might have some involvement with the academy of the biggest team in the region. Inter Milan and Cittadella are in similar situations.

The whole thing is goddamn awful. Taking these kids, often under false pretenses, to a foreign country and profiting off their labor is the sort of action that deserves a special circle of hell. Here’s hoping that the Procura catches the scumsuckers responsible for this, and, more importantly, that these kids end up in the best place, whether that’s in Italy or back home.