Simone Farina was, along with FIFA's Director of Security Ralf Mutschke, a key figure at a recent INTERPOL workshop in Laxenburg, Austria. Farina, who is a FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play, famously refused a bribe concerning a Coppa Italia match in 2011 striking an important blow for those attempting to corrupt the sport.
The workshop in Austria focussed on educational and preventional work in the areas of match fixing and corruption in football. Farina took time out of the two-day event, to chat frankly about his experiences and why football must be protected.
FIFA.com: Do you have any regrets?
Simone Farina: No, I have no regrets, for various reasons. Firstly, I did what I believe was right, secondly, I love my job and I wanted to protect my profession and, last but not least, as a man, I could not carry such a burden on my shoulders.
*Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
*Absolutely, I would have done everything in the same way. Because of my choice, I had to face very difficult moments, and so did my family. Only if you have a strong family supporting you, and luckily enough it was my case, can you find the strength to overcome such obstacles.
*How did your colleagues/peers/family/friends react?
*As I just stated, my family played a vital role, giving me the moral support I needed. And yet, I often thought that I had to endure so many wrongdoings only because I had done what I believe was right. If I think of my two young children, I’d rather not talk of the anguish I felt nor do I believe that I deserved the treatment I had to withstand. As for good friends, I found out that I had very few.
When I think that what I do is helpful to many young players who are just entering the world of football, I feel truly blessed.
*Do you think that reporting match-fixing ended your professional football career?
*My career definitely changed and a lot happened since I made my report... I will never be able to talk negatively of Italian football. I was part of it for a long time. I played football from a very young age and I feel the need to say that football taught me a lot and I will always be grateful for that. I love this sport and this is the very reason why I acted as I did. But I must say that at the time there was a lack of responsiveness by many, even by my football club... I wish that in such an arduous situation I had been given the moral support that at the time was vital to me… I must add that I am proud of the way I handled things. I kept quiet about my choice and did not boast about my decision in TV shows or newspapers, waving it as a trophy. But, believe me when I say that it is not easy to go home and read fear in the eyes of your beloved ones….
*How did this affect you personally?
*Today I can say that all that happened has had a very positive impact: I am a coachand I train young children. And this is marvellous: they give me so much and this experience is truly enriching. As a FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play I am in contact with people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds and this is also wonderful. When I think that what I do is helpful to many young players who are just entering the world of football, I feel truly blessed.
*Do you miss professional football?
*Do I miss football? I miss it terribly, although I was not a champion. Together with my team players we gave our best to the sport and to our fans, and I am proud of my career. I did my best, gave it all I could and I have no regrets...Only a few players are lucky or talented enough to reach the highest levels, but each player feels the same passion, no matter what your name is: Messi, Ronaldo or. . .Farina.
*What is your message for other players?
*What do I wish to tell other players today? It is quite simple: our passion is priceless. We alone are aware of the sacrifices that we had to make to get where we are today. And we must protect this beautiful sport with all means necessary. Match fixing is not limited to one or two countries. It is a problem affecting the whole world and no one should feel excluded or isolated. Only working together shall we be able to find a solution.