At 17 years of age, Gennaro Cesarano had a lot of living left to do, but because of the tragic events of one September eve, his young life would be forever snuffed from this world.
Caught up in the crossfire of two warring Camorra Mafia clans not far from his home in Naples, the young man would pay the ultimate price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An innocent victim in an ever increasingly deadly war between those who seek to undermine society, Genny’s name will join the hundreds more on the plaque of those who have lost their lives to organised crime. Less than half a year on from Genny’s death, the war continued to rage on and as 2015 gave way to 2016, the violence became ever more pronounced with ten murders in Naples by the Camorra by the start of February. Things had reached such a tipping point that then Interior minister and Deputy Prime minister Angelino Alfano said “Right now in Naples we need the army, we need to silence the guns.”
This is the reality of the Mafia; brutality. It is not the romantic notion that can be portrayed in movies or in video games. The Mafia ruins lives, causes terror and paralyses the mechanisms of the state.
With all this being true, it makes the reaction or better put the lack of reaction to recent events in Calcio all the more numbing.
When news broke of alleged collusion between the Ndrangheta and Juventus over ticket touting, which was apparently signed off on by the club’s hierarchy and given over to the some of the clubs Ultra groups, it was met by either one or another way by the rest of the footballing fraternity. Those with Juventus close to their hearts claimed it was a non-issued dreamed up by those who only wish to slander the club. Club President Andrea Agnelli has boisterously claimed his innocence in the matter, taking to Twitter to say, “What I am reading is false.” However, to those who hold an intense dislike for the Bianconeri, the story was just another confirmation of the club’s shady dealings and how it always went beyond the law to achieve success.
Yet while fans on either side traded blows the real meat of the issue went unexplored, that of course being the implication that Mafia infiltration had potentially reached the highest level of the Italian game. While all this remains, unproven and alleged wrong doing, it would be naïve to think that if it is found to be true that Juventus are the only club to turn a blind eye to potential criminal activity.
Indeed, Mafia infiltration into the world of Calcio is nothing new and something I have wrote on in the past. In particular, the story if ‘La Nuova Quatro Calcio,’ a club owned by a Clan boss and used for the purpose of laundering money. Of course, they are not the only one with many other lower level teams falling victim to the organised crime families. Some even having guns found hidden within their stadiums. What though was the benefit of the Mafia infiltrating such obscure clubs, well for one as already mentioned it gave them an easy way to launder their ill-gotten gains. While it also gave them prestige in their local area, controlling their local village team gives them status and power which they crave.
And this is not a thing consigned to the past, with it coming to the fore once again this season with Serie D club Foglino pulled from the league mid-way through after the club was found to have been infiltrated by the mafia and club chairman Gianluca Ius arrested. Again, however it is a phenomenon that is not just isolated to the lower levels. As Crotone stormed to its maiden Serie A campaign, and even now as it battles for survival, stories have emerged around the clubs possible Mafia connections. And these are not just idle rumours, an article on Italy24.com claims that the Cantanzaro anti-mafia magistrates believe the club to be under the control of the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian Mafia. It is further claimed that the two Vrenna brothers (Raffaele owns the club), “are businessmen working in close connection with the Mafia.” What’s more this is not the first time that Raffaele has been accused of colluding with the Mafia, back in 2005 he was also under investigation by the Italian football federation. Meanwhile Napoli, the home of the Camorra, has also suffered their fair share of mishaps with the crime organisation, such as former star Diego Maradona’s links with the group and how known crime bosses were able to get in a watch matches pitch side.
For some, the events that have surrounded Juventus and the likes will mean nothing. For others, it may be viewed as something much more worrying. It can be easy to forget but it must not be. The Mafia is a disease that infects the roots of society and its tentacles have extraordinary reach and to think that reach does not include Calcio is a very dangerous mindset indeed.