ROME – Former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni is hoping fans will look back on his reign in a different light after the arrest of former referee Byron Moreno in New York.
The Ecuadorean, blamed by Italian fans for the Azzurri's elimination from the 2002 World Cup, was caught on Monday at John F. Kennedy Airport with bags of heroin attached to his body, according to U.S. federal prosecutors. A judge jailed Moreno without bail on a drug smuggling charge.
Moreno ejected Francesco Totti for an alleged dive 13 minutes into overtime in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, and South Korea used the man advantage to score three minutes from the end and win 2-1. South Korea received a penalty kick in the game's opening minutes, but it was saved.
"I saw even before going out onto the pitch against South Korea that it wasn't going to go well with the referee," Trapattoni said Wednesday. "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," Trapattoni added.
Trapattoni has had a string of bad luck with national teams. At the 2004 European Championship, the Azzurri became the first team eliminated from the group phase without losing a game in tournament history, thanks to a 2-2 tie between Denmark and Sweden — the only possible formula that would have sent Italy home.
Now the Ireland manager, he was on the sideline when France gained a spot in the 2010 World Cup courtesy of two clear handballs from Thierry Henry.
"Where is football going?" he said.
Franco Carraro, an International Olympic Committee member and Italy's soccer federation president at the time of the South Korea game, said the arrest proves Moreno had problems.
"I fear that drugs didn't have much to do with what Moreno did in the 2002 Italy-South Korea game," Carraro said. "His refereeing was atrocious, perhaps for inability, but more probably for other reasons."
Ted Howard, the CONCACAF secretary general who serves on FIFA's referees committee, said the committee likely would not look into the matter.
"It would be another body within FIFA," he said. "We're not really an investigative body."
Nestor Benitez, spokesman for the South American governing body CONMEBOL, tried to distance the governing body from the referee,
"Byron Moreno's conduct is his own," Benitez said. "It has nothing to do with football or CONMEBOL."
Police in the coastal Ecuador city of Guayaquil said they were investigating how Moreno avoided security measures in the Guayaquil airport.
"The drug-sniffing dogs didn't detect it," police Col. Juan Cabrera said. "Perhaps the heroin was contaminated or mixed with some other substance to keep the dogs from finding it."
Cabrera said immigration records showed Moreno had traveled five times previously to the United States, where he stayed for an average of three days. He said this may have made American officials suspicious.