Quarto, 4th of June, 2006. Giuseppe Iadonisi eases his Fiat Punto into his garage entrance. In the car beside him sits his wife and three young children, all of whom barring his wife are asleep. It’s just past one o’clock in the morning and the family are returning home from a night out at the bowling alley. Suddenly as they wait for the door to open two men wearing helmets appear out of the dark. The two produce firearms and indiscriminately open fire towards the car.
In total nine bullets are unloaded onto the little Fiat. Eight of the bullets find the desired target, hitting Giuseppe in the abdomen, neck and head. The ninth and final bullet connects with the right knee of Iadonisi’s young daughter who’d been asleep on her mother’s lap in the front seat. She would survive along with her mother and siblings, but they could never forget the horror of what they had been through.
Six years previously, Giuseppe had been sent to prison for five years on drug charges. He’d been out only a few months but it looked as if he was beginning to turn his life around. However his brother Francesco was still part of the shady world that he was trying to escape. Francesco was part of an emerging Camorra (Neapolitan Mafia) clan in Fuorigrotta who were embroiled in a turf war with the Venosa clan. Despite seemingly having no more to do with that life, Giuseppe Iadonisi paid for the sins of others at the hands of the deadly Camorra.
The town of Quarto, where this incident took place, is roughly 20km north of Naples and is home to just over 40,000 people. Like other towns in and around the area, it was not the first or last brush with the infamous Camorra Mafia. In the lead up to the 2012 local elections, two politicians from separate parties were arrested for collusion with the Polverino Mafia clan. A year later the entire local municipality was disbanded after it had also been infiltrated by the Polverino’s.
“The dissolution for Camorra infiltration of the municipality of Quarto does not surprise us.” – Arturo Scotto (Left Ecology & Freedom Party).
As mentioned the clan that were at the centre of all this is known as the Polverino’s and is headed by one Giuseppe Polverino. A more old school type of boss, he dealt in hash instead of cocaine, and it is said that his family could move up to 5000kg of the drug per month in and around Napoli. Despite not dealing with the more lucrative white powder, the Polverino’s are still hugely influential. They have also been linked to scores of murders, including at least eight “Breaking Bad” style acid bath murders.
For all this notoriety though it was there involvement with a tiny unknown football club that brought them to a wider known audience both at home and abroad.
In February 2011, in cooperation with the Spanish Guardia Civil, the Italian Anti-Mafia police launched Operazione Polvere. As a result of the operation over €1Billion in assets were seized from the Polverino family. This included companies, land and yachts to name just a few things. Along with the vast seizure however there was also the arrest of 39 individuals, two of whom were election candidates for Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom Party.
Another individual of interest caught up in the mess was Castrese Paragliola, the president of little La Nuova Quarto Calcio. By delving deeper the police discovered that Paragliola was nothing other than a stooge for Giuseppe Polverino – the real man in control of the club. It turned out that the Polverino’s had been using the club to launder there ill-gotten gains whilst also using it as a way to garner respect in the surrounding community. The local football team was useful to extend control in every area of civil life. As Deputy Mafia prosecutor Antonello Ardituro put it “Football was part of their logic of power.”
With the club having been stained for its association with the Mafia it looked as if it could no longer continue as a serious entity. However the club was handed a lifeline when in the first case of its kind, it was sequestered and put under the stewardship of judicial officials helped by the anti-racket association, SOS Impresta.
It was the dawn of a new era for Quarto, a fresh start. What’s more they quickly became the darlings of the Italian media “The Club who had thrown out the Mafia”. The club was thrust to the forefront of modern Italy’s battle against the Mafia.
“Take advantage of football to give new vigour to fight against the Mafia. If they use sport as a means of power why not exploit the contrary, to counter this power.” – Antonello Ardituro.
However problems remained. There were still those in the community that were loyal to the Polverino’s and took umbrage to the fact that the club had the gall to continue without them. As such, the club were victims of countless fire, theft and vandalism attacks. Unsurprisingly, these shenanigans off the pitch meant performances on it began to slip and the club eventually suffered relegation to the Promozione division.
The club were determined to continue however, no matter what obstacle was placed in their path. The cleansing continued after the club disbanded old ultra groups and set up a new one. Any player that played for the club had to be clean of a criminal record and couldn’t be under investigation. Another big step on the rebuilding process was the appointment of local coach Ciro Amorosetti at the helm. He took a little persuading though. “I was afraid, I took a few days, then I got the guarantee of a competitive team and I accepted” Amorosetti admitted.
The last act of renewal was to change the name of the club. Its full title read La Nuova Quarto Calcio per la legalita (For the law). The rebranding quickly worked as under the guidance of Amorosetti the club won promotion back to the Eccellenza after beating Frattese 3-0 in a play-off. At the promotion celebrations, head of the AIC Dammiano Tommasi turned up while Pope Francis even gave the club a phone call.
The Italian national team also held a training session on the clubs pitch as a show of solidarity. While all the plaudits from those in power were gratifying, nothing could beat the sweetness of promotion for club president Luigi Cuomo.
“The promotion was a huge satisfaction, because we have experienced ups and downs. Damages and intimidation have accompanied us throughout the season. We have suffered damage to the stadium, theft of trophies and of sports equipment. Fortunately we have always overcome.”
The theft Cuomo mentioned was in relation to an incident in which all the trophies the club had won under the new regime were either destroyed or taken, while those won before were left untouched. Despite the clubs return to success however, attendances at matches continued to flat line, while on the road opposition fans would subject them to taunts and insults. Worse still the attacks on the clubs facilities continued unabated, with the electric cable being stolen from the dressing rooms as recently as April this year.
After the initial highs, the bad news continued. Last season the club was once again relegated from the Eccellenza. It looked as if a rebuilding process would have to be undertaken once more. In July of this year though came a terrible bombshell. The club had failed to register with the authorities for the upcoming season.
At the heart of the matter was the fact that the club were just too heavily in debt and no one was willing to step forward to help finance the club. The lack of money also meant that they could no longer continue to pay the city for upkeep of the stadium.
The club was at deaths door and for those who had ploughed so much time and effort into the project; it was a cruel and bitter blow.
“The truth is that team was never loved in the city” – president Luigi Cuomo.
Efforts to save the club continued. Massimiliano Manfredi – a member of the parliamentary anti-mafia – wrote to the governor of the Vincenzo De Luca region pleading with him to save the club. Sadly it proved unsuccessful and for the first time in over 25-years, Nuova Quarto will not start a regional championship.
In the end it was not the Mafia that took the club down, but their presence played its part. So while the demise of historic clubs such as Parma and Venezia may be a defeat for calcio, the demise of La Nuova quarto Calcio per la Legalita is a defeat for modern Italy against the Mafia.
As Antonello Ardituro put it, “To let the team die would be a social defeat.” Sadly that is exactly how it has turned out.