Moreno arrest sparks Trap outburst

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI said he hopes fans in his native Italy will look back on his time in charge of the national side in a different light, following the arrest of former referee Byron Moreno.

The Ecuadorian whistle-blower, who refereed Italy’s controversial 2002 World Cup match with South Korea, was arrested and charged with smuggling heroin at JFK International Airport in New Yorko on Tuesday.

Moreno ejected Francesco Totti for an alleged dive 13 minutes into extra time then awarded South Korea a penalty kick that was saved in the host nation’s 2-1 win.

Trapattoni, who is now in charge of the Republic of Ireland, yesterday said: “I saw even before going out onto the pitch against South Korea that it wasn’t going to go well with the referee.

“Now maybe Trapattoni’s reign on Italy’s bench will be read under a different light. The facts now are so serious that they speak for themselves.”

The Italians have always maintained that there was something of a conspiracy against them in 2002, or at the very least, that there was an attempt made to keep hosts South Korea in the tournament.

Numerous Italian goals were disallowed in unusual circumstances during the tournament before the infamous knockout match with South Korea.

However the game against South Korea was by far the most notorious. The highly fancied Italian side were eliminated by the co-hosts after a match full of bizarre refereeing decisions. A penalty was awarded to the South Koreans early on, allegedly for a Christian Panucci tugging offence, which Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon saved.

Francesco Totti was yellow carded for allegedly diving in the penalty area, only to be red carded immediately afterwards in the exchanges that developed. Replays of the incident revel Totti to have been very hard done by, as the South Korean tackler made contact with his left leg in the penalty area.

All game long, there were numerous South Korean fouls on their Italian counterparts, including high tackles, a blatant elbow and even a kick on the back of the head.

What seemed like a perfectly legitimate Italian goal by Damiano Tommasi was also disallowed for offside.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who played in that match, said yesterday: “I think Moreno already had the (heroin) in 2002, but not in his underwear, in his body.

“Joking aside, when sports people get involved in drug cases it means they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

“It also means they’ve lost the real meaning of the sport, which is also to save kids from the street and various dangers, like drugs.”

Moreno “became visibly nervous” during a routine inspection, a federal court in Brooklyn heard.

A customs agent felt “hard objects on the defendant’s stomach, back and both of his legs”, the complaint said.

A strip search revealed that the lumps were 10 clear plastic bags containing more than 10 pounds of heroin, it added. The 43-year-old was jailed without bail, and there was no response from his lawyer on Tuesday.

Initially considered a hero upon return to his native Ecuador after the 2002 World Cup, the reception soon turned sour for Moreno.

In September 2002 Moreno was suspended for 20 matches and placed under investigation by the Ecuador football authorities after his handling of a first division match between Liga de Quito and Barcelona de Guayaquil.

In this match, he played 13 minutes of injury time. Hosts Liga de Quito scored two goals in injury time, winning the match 4-3.

Moreno awarded two disputed penalties, sent off two players and caused confusion by first awarding a goal and then disallowing it.

He was at that time running for a place in the Quito city council and the Barcelona president claimed that it was unethical for Moreno to continue refereeing during the run-up to the poll.

Moreno was suspended again soon after returning from the 20-match ban, this time for sending off three players in a game. He subsequently lost his FIFA badge and retired from refereeing in 2003.

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