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‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Italy's players were feted as heroes on Monday after beating England in a dramatic penalty shootout to win the Euro 2020 trophy, their second European title and first since 1968.

'Football came home': Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England
Italy's team captain Giorgio Chiellini carries the Euro 2020 trophy back to Rome. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Roberto Mancini’s side won 3-2 on penalties after the match at Wembley had finished 1-1 after extra time.

“We are happy to have given joy and hope to the Italians after such a difficult period,” Mancini told reporters as the team touched down in Rome on Monday, where they were greeted by some 200 fans chanting: “We’re the champions of Europe!”

READ ALSO: ‘You need to eat more pasta’: The most Italian reactions to Italy’s Euro 2020 win 

No victory parade was expected given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, after a few hours at their hotel, the besuited squad attended a ceremony at the palace of President Sergio Mattarella, who himself had been at Wembley for Sunday’s match.

Italy’s coach Roberto Mancini (L) and Italy’s captain Giorgio Chiellini carry the UEFA EURO 2020 trophy. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

From Milan to Palermo, celebrations went late into the night after Sunday’s match.

In the heart of Rome, a concert of car horns and foghorns rang out amid a cloud of smoke from firecrackers.

At the final whistle, thousands of fans draped in Italian flags left fan zones installed near the Colosseum and Piazza del Popolo to converge on Piazza Venezia, at the foot of the monument to King Victor-Emmanuel II, father of Italian unification.

Forza Italia! Campioni d’Europa!” roared the supporters: “Come on Italy, champions of Europe!”

Supporters set off flares and fireworks in Piazza Venezia, Rome. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The European football crown returns to Italy three years after the four-time world champions failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.

Chiellini on Monday dedicated the win to the Italian fans and former Italy and Fiorentina defender Davide Astori, who died aged 31 after suffering a cardiac arrest before an Italian league match in 2018.

Addressing the audience in the grounds of Mattarella’s Quirinale palace, he paid tribute to his teammates.

“We are not here because we scored an extra penalty, but because we believed in the values of friendship,” he said. “This success is a group victory. This bond made us feel like brothers of Italy to answer the call together.”

Watching the match in the fan zone in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Few of the crowds at Sunday’s celebrations wore masks, which have not been mandatory outdoors in Italy since the end of June.

Discussions were held on whether or not to install a giant screen at the Stadio Olimpico, but the authorities, fearing an outbreak of the Delta variant, decided against the idea.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

On paper, large gatherings were prohibited. But it was difficult, in reality, to prevent young and old from finally meeting after months of lockdown when they were deprived of social life.

Under the pines of Via dei Fori Imperiali, the police watched the procession of jubilant supporters.

Celebrations in Rome. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Beyond the sporting performance, Italy wants to believe that the coronation as European champions will help the country definitively close the fatal chapter of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For fan Pierluigi de Amicis, “it’s a rescue, after a year and a half of pandemic, suffering, death”.

Greengrocer Matteo Falovo spoke for many when he said that after 17 months of the virus, which hit Italy hard, it had been “a pleasure to be able to think about something else”.

Fans celebrate in Milan. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest selling newspaper, wrote on Sunday: “After the greatest post-war Italian tragedy, Italians are smiling again.”

“IT’S OURS! Football came home,” read the Corriere dello Sport.

“England beaten on penalties, Italy in the streets to celebrate the Cup.”

Mancini’s men recovered from the shock of conceding the quickest goal ever in a European Championship final to equalise and held their nerve to claim a shootout victory after extra time failed to break the draw.

“We did well,” Mancini told RAI Sport. “We conceded a goal straight away and struggled, but then we dominated the game.

“The lads were wonderful, I don’t know what more to say. It’s important for all the people and all the fans.”

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French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

Lawyers for FFR President Bernard Laporte said he was going to appeal against the court's verdict

French rugby in turmoil as FFR boss gets suspended sentence over corruption

French rugby was reeling Tuesday after the president of the country’s governing body Bernard Laporte was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence on corruption charges nine months before France hosts the game’s World Cup.

Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) president Laporte, 58, was convicted after a French court ruled he showed favouritism in awarding a shirt sponsorship contract for the national side to Mohed Altrad, the billionaire owner of Top 14 champions Montpellier. He was also banned from holding any rugby post for two years. Both are suspended pending an appeal, which Laporte’s lawyer said was imminent.

Laporte later stepped down from his role as vice-chairman of the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, pending a review by the body’s ethics officer.

“World Rugby notes the decision by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte to self-suspend from all positions held within its governance structures with immediate effect following his conviction by the French court in relation to domestic matters, and pending his appeal,” World Rugby said.

“While acknowledging Laporte’s self-suspension and right of appeal, given the serious nature of the verdict World Rugby’s Executive Committee has referred the matter to its independent ethics officer for review in accordance with its integrity code,” it added.

Resignation call
Laporte faces problems on the domestic front, too, with Florian Grill, who narrowly lost to him in the 2020 election for federation chief, calling for Laporte and the entire board to stand down.

“It is unheard of in rugby, this is an earthquake,” Grill told AFP. “We have never before seen a president of the federation condemned to two
years in prison, even if it suspended.

“We think the 40 members of the board of directors should draw the obvious conclusions and resign.”

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said the sentence was an “obstacle for Bernard Laporte to be able, as it stands, to continue his mission in good conditions” as federation president, and called for a “new democratic era to allow French rugby to rebound as quickly as possible and sufficiently healthy and solid, with a governance by the federation that will have the full confidence of the clubs”.

The court found that Laporte ensured a series of marketing decisions favourable to Altrad – who was given an 18-month suspended sentence and
€50,000 euro — in exchange for a €180,000 image licensing contract that was never actually carried out.

Altrad’s lawyer said he would study the decision before deciding on whether to appeal.

At the trial’s close in September, prosecutors said they were seeking a three-year prison sentence for Laporte, of which he should serve one behind bars, and the two others on probation.

The friendship and business links between Laporte and Altrad are at the heart of the case.

It goes back to February 2017, when they signed a deal under which Laporte agreed to appear at Altrad group conferences, and sold his image reproduction rights, in return for €180,000.

But while that sum was  paid to Laporte, prosecutors claim that he neveractually provided the services he signed up for.

Laporte did, however, make several public statements backing Altrad and, in March 2017, signed the €1.8 million deal with the businessman making his namesake firm the first-ever sponsor to appear on the French national team’s jerseys.

The Altrad name and logo still features on the shirts thanks to a follow-up deal negotiated by Laporte in 2018 and which prosecutors say bears all the hallmarks of corruption. It is also on the All Blacks’ national squads’ shirts, and New Zealand Rugby is reportedly seeking an urgent meeting with company officials following the court ruling.

Laporte, formerly a highly successful coach who guided France twice to the World Cup semi-finals (2003 and 2007), was also found guilty of favouritism
with regards to Altrad’s Montpellier Herault Rugby (MHR) club.

He was convicted for intervening with French rugby’s federal disciplinary commission to reduce a fine against the club from €70,000 to €20,000 after several telephone calls from Laporte.

While prosecutors saw this and several more incidents as proof of illicit favouritism, Laporte himself had claimed there was no “cause-effect relationship”.

On the last day of the trial in October, Laporte’s lawyer Fanny Colin accused the prosecution of “confirmation bias” by “taking into account only elements backing their original assumptions”.

The verdict comes only nine months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France on September 8, 2023, with matches played in nine stadiums across the country.

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