On Friday 11th, A.S. Roma forward Stephan El Shaarawy, who had been away for over two years, was called to join Italy’s squad to train for the Euro 2024 qualifier against England.
El Shaarawy was selected to assume a position in the starting lineup, a decision influenced by the ongoing betting scandal involving Nicolo Zaniolo and Sandro Tonali. The two had been under the spotlight for alleged gambling offenses.
The 30-year-old, who had always been a benched substitute for Roma, has never played for his country since March 2021.
Serata indimenticabile ?????? pic.twitter.com/y4WjHAXzFm
— Stephan El Shaarawy (@OfficialEl92) October 31, 2017
El Shaarawy’s Surprise Return Amidst Sports Betting Offences
The former AC Milan player got a surprise opportunity to play in a big game after spending most of his time at AC Milan as a substitute since Romelu Lukaku made his move from Chelsea.
This impromptu return was spurred on by sports betting allegations that were made public on Thursday, the 12th. Investigators had visited the Italian training pitch at Coverciano, near Florence, to inform Tonali and Zaniolo that they were being investigated for illegal sports betting.
Tonali, who had moved to the new Champions League qualifiers, Newcastle, from AC Milan this summer, was questioned by the police alongside country teammate Zaniolo, who joined Aston Villa from Roma in July.
Italy’s head coach, Luciano Spalleti, acted swiftly and sent the two home, saying they would best deal with the allegations away from the team. He added that the pair is young and strong in their early 20s and will positively impact the team.
Italy had to take necessary precautions to ensure the attacking forward had options in the ongoing Euro 2024 qualifiers.
??? ???????? | Days after Gigi Buffon (45) retired from football, he's already working in the game.
He'll become the Head of Delegation for the Italian national team.
Statement: "The national team comes first & nothing would have prevented me from returning home." pic.twitter.com/lIzX879Gsy
— EuroFoot (@eurofootcom) August 5, 2023
What Does This Mean for Tonali, Zaniolo, and Italy as a Team?
Tonali and Zaniolo will be forced to spend the coming weeks at their respective home clubs while investigations are ongoing. They will also miss Euro 2024 qualifying matches with Malta and England.
Tonali, who has played more than a dozen times for his country, made headlines when he moved from AC Milan to Newcastle for a whooping £60 million (about 73 million USD.)
With this transfer, he became the most expensive Italian footballer. But, with such allegations against him, statistics could show his net worth drop rapidly.
Zaniolo, on the other hand, has also made 15 appearances for his country. He might not have had the best career a rising star would dream of, as injuries and falling out of favor with Jose Mourinho at Roma made his life there shaky before moving to Galatasaray and later to Aston Villa on loan in August.
3 of the best Italian talents caught up in this.
It just goes to show that brains and talent does not equate to common sense and we need to continuously guide our youth, no matter how smart or mature they seem.
I worry for the ones not caught.
— The Football Oracle (@LeFootyOracle) October 27, 2023
Gambling and Betting in Football
Gambling and betting have always been discussed in the world of football. Most people eagerly wait for fixtures and draws to be made so that they can pull up their statistics and analysis scorecards to place their bets.
Some even bet during live matches and watch the games with bated breath, knowing their money is on the line if their team loses.
Many people would argue that football, in one way or another, promotes gambling. For instance, many football clubs have struck lucrative sponsorship deals with betting companies.
Teams like Newcastle, Leeds, and Brentford prominently display their sponsoring betting companies on the front of the shirts.
While this is a win-win situation for both the clubs and the sponsoring companies, does football consider the dangers betting has shown to have on football fans and even footballers?
The problem of online casinos and betting isn’t just a danger to fans of the beautiful game. Still, it could also upend the players’ lives, who often pick up addictive behaviors from extracurricular activities.
Zaniolo and Tonali could always pay the fine and get back to the starting lineups of their club and home country teams, but would that cut the problem of betting offenses in the beautiful football game?
Legislations to Deal with Gambling
As the world struggles to contain gambling and its harmful effects on both fans and footballers, a set of laws have been put in place by football federations to help mitigate the harmful effects of gambling.
One is the upcoming ban on front-of-shirt advertising by gambling sponsors, including betting and casino-based companies. The EPL has already accepted the ban set to take effect at the beginning of the 2026/27 season.
The FA also issued a betting ban on football for anyone involved in the sport in the Premier League and its associated leagues, such as the English Football League and the National League. This means that any footballer caught betting on a match or a competition in which they are involved faces significant suspension time from football.
In the future, coaches and team managers will be on the frontline to set up rules and punishments that will apply to any footballer who engages in illegal sports betting. Punishments may include suspension of players from matches and excommunication from clubs if their gambling behavior exceeds containment.
Image from: unsplash.com