Soccer: Match-fixing hero Farina joins Aston Villa

30-year-old whistleblower takes up community coaching role

Soccer: Match-fixing hero Farina joins Aston Villa

(ANSA) - London, October 17 - Simone Farina, the footballer who blew the whistle on Italy's latest match-fixing scandal, has joined Aston Villa to take up a community coaching role, the Birmingham club said Wednesday. Farina has been hailed as a 'moral champion' for refusing an alleged bribe of 200,000 euros in November 2011 when he was at then Serie B side Gubbio to help fix an Italian Cup match against Cesena. Instead he went straight to the police and information he provided helped investigators uncover a huge web of betting-related match-fixing. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli rewarded the 30-year-old Roman with a symbolic call-up up to the national team and he was the guest of honour at this year's Ballon d'Or ceremony, at which FIFA President Sepp Blatter named him a FIFA fair-play ambassador. "I know I did the right thing when I refused to get involved in the fixing of a football game," former defender Farina, who had been out of work since leaving Gubbio by mutual consent at the end of last season, told Villa's website. "I went to the authorities because this corruption had to be brought to the surface. This level of deception has no place in football or in any walk of life. "The opportunity here at Villa is perfect for me. It is also very satisfying to see the technical development of the children and their enjoyment of the game. This is what the game is all about really. "I feel very happy in the Birmingham area as the people here have been great and my family are very happy, too. This is important to me, of course. "But it is also important to me that I continue to work in football and that I am able to pass on my knowledge because football is an inspirational game. "A year ago I did not see my life moving in this direction but I am really delighted to be able now to contribute in this way". The move was applauded by Interpol, who helped investigate the match-fixing and have links with Villa. "Simone Farina is a football defender both on and off the pitch," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble. "He showed integrity and courage by turning down and reporting to the police an attempted bribe to corrupt the outcome of a match; he needs to become just as important a role model for our youth like stars such as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo". Over 40 people have been arrested since the Cremona-based 'Last Bet' criminal probe went public last year, leading sporting prosecutors to look at the case. They include Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri and former Italy internationals Beppe Signori and Cristiano Doni. Juventus boss Antonio Conte is currently serving a four-month ban for failing report a deal to fix a match during his time at former club Siena. Former Bari defender Andrea Masiello, meanwhile, was this month given a suspended 22-month prison sentence after a plea bargain with prosecutors. Masiello, who had already been banned from soccer by a sporting tribunal, admitted to deliberately scoring an own goal to ensure Bari lost 2-0 to Lecce in the 2010-11 campaign, when they were relegated to Serie B. A Bari court found the 26-year-old guilty of criminal association and sporting fraud regarding the fixing of four matches. The new case has rocked the Italian soccer world again after Juventus were relegated and stripped of two Serie A titles for involvement in the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal in 2006. That scandal regarded schemes to have compliant referees officiate some teams' matches.

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