IRELAND coach Giovanni Trapattoni has described the latest match-fixing scandal to hit Italy as "devastating" and believes it further tarnishes the image of Italian football.
The former Italy boss was shocked by the news that several players, including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and former Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto, have been arrested by police in connection with a match-fixing probe carried out by Cremona prosecutors.
"It is a devastating story," Trapattoni told Gazzetta dello Sport. "If the magistrates are doing something, it is because there is some truth in this. I, who have travelled abroad for some time, must say that we give an ugly image of our football."
He went on: "As an Italian, the first feeling is that we are mocked abroad, we are always linked to illicit dealings and are considered mafia members. This only damages us because I can claim to have paid the price for an attitude that affects everyone."
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) confirmed that Mauri and Milanetto have been held over allegations of "criminal association and sporting fraud". Officers are searching more than 31 homes in Italy and abroad, including those of coaches and players of clubs in Serie A, Serie B and lower divisions.
Police also went to Italy's training ground in Coverciano, Florence, on Monday to question former Genoa defender Domenico Criscito, who now plays for Zenit St Petersburg.
Trapattoni, whose side were paired with Italy in Group C at the upcoming European Championship, does not believe the latest scandal will have a negative impact on the Azzurri, however. Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany despite having the cloud of a match-fixing scandal hanging over them at the time.
"It's clear that certain stories provoke anger," Trapattoni said. "But it could also give a push (to the team) to prove the clean face of football."
Italian Olympic Committee vice-president Luca Pancalli was equally saddened by the latest football scandal to rock the nation. "The courage to speak must be there in order to put an end to this issue and to start again," he said to Gazzetta. "As a man of sport and as a citizen I feel infinite sadness."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was due to announce his Euro 2012 squad on Monday. However, reports in Italy claim the announcement could be postponed due to Criscito's involvement in the investigation, although his agent Andrea D'Amico insists his client is not concerned.