Italians have the last laugh as nemesis Moreno arrested
Published 25/09/2010 | 05:00
WHEN the name Byron Moreno is mentioned in the vicinity of an Italian football fan, it's advisable to stand back, remove any fragile objects from the room and cover young children's ears.
While it might seem a bit harsh to say that Moreno's refereeing decisions destroyed Italy's chances at the 2002 World Cup, it would still not be wrong. The Ecuadorean's performance during Italy's 2-1 last 16 defeat against hosts South Korea is memorable for some very suspect decisions, including Francesco Totti being sent off for diving and the Italians having a goal disallowed for offside.
So, when news filtered through this week that Moreno was arrested and charged with drug smuggling in New York, some of the Italians involved in the game had a field day.
"I think Moreno already had the heroin in 2002, but not in his underwear, in his body," smirked Gianluigi Buffon, while Christian Panucci said: "He was put in place to eliminate Italy. He is a bandit, he is not a serious person."
Even our own Giovanni Trapattoni seized on the story and said: "Now maybe Trapattoni's reign on Italy's bench will be read under a different light."
In the aftermath of the game, the Italians claimed there was a conspiracy to ensure that one of the hosts progressed in the tournament and, predictably enough, were called bad losers by FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
However, Blatter wasn't as vociferous a few months later when Moreno was banned for 20 matches by the Ecuadorean FA for playing 13 minutes of added time in a league match, during which one of the teams came from behind to win.