How many more times can the tattered reputation of Internazionale of Milan be called into question before the Italian federation take special powers to investigate in depth this most controversial of European clubs?
It's hardly surprising that they have achieved little on the pitch in the past few years; officials have had to spend most of their time answering a string of accusations of malpractice. The latest have been the most serious. Last season Inter were cleared by the federation of 'arranging' a league. match with Genoa only on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Now civil authorities have reopened the case, interviewing players, officials and journalists and issuing subpoenas to seize documents and TV film. Above all, Inter stood accused before UEFA of trying to 'buy' the UEFA Cup second round tie with the Dutch club, Groningen.
UEFA were due to announce their judgment after 'publication deadline, but whether Inter are pronounced guilty or innocent is almost immaterial. It's time their own federation acted to resolve the club's capacity for controversy, once and for all. The Groningen case blew up on October 26, a week after the Dutch club's 2-0 win in the first leg when coach Han Berger alleges he was offered £55,000 to 'fix' his players' for the second leg against Inter (being played at Bari, because the Stadio Meazza at San Siro was under UEF A suspension). Four days later Groningen president Renzo De Vries made an official complaint to the Dutch federation. The federation passed this on to UEFA two days before the return match. On the day before the return De Vries was approached in Bari, so he assured UEFA later, about the result of the game - the first time he had been directly involved. All previous contact was said to have been through Berger.
As for the game itself, the score was 0-0 at half-time. But a spell of three goals in eight minutes for Inter early in the second half turned the tie around. Inter ran out 5-1 winners, and qualified for the third round on a 5-3 aggregate - being then drawn to face FK Austria. None of the background machinations had so far leaked out. But after the match Berger told reporters for the first time that: "Inter wanted to win at all costs. One of their representatives offered me £55,000 to throw the game." De Vries, listening in the background, later confirmed Berger's account. Inter president Ivanoe Fraizzoli's comment was disingenuous to say the least - "It's all a pack of lies. Anyway, how could you hope to buy an entire team with such a small amount?" How does Fraizzoli know what it costs to fix a game?
On November 7 UEFA admitted that they had been told something was in the wind before the return game and decided to launch an investigation. Their first call was for Groningen to present whatever evidence they possessed. Inter responded, as Groningen were handing in a dossier to the Dutch federation, by accusing De Vries of slander and demanding that UEFA get tough with Groningen. But who was the mysterious middleman? Groningen's dossier revealed him as Apollonius Konijnlmrg, a 50-year-old Dutchman who had been operating as a transfer go-between for Dutch and Belgian players since Italy reopened the borders to foreign players in 1980. His first two 'deals' involved the sale of Michel Van der Korput by Feyenoord to Torino and the complicated transfer of Rudi Krol from Ajax, via Vancouver, to Napoli. It was then that Konijnburg opened his International Football Management agency at Imperia to look after the Dutchmen's publicity deals and organise friendly matches between Italian and foreign clubs.
In 1981 the agency were heavily involved in organising at Milan the first World Super Cup. Konijnburg gained further approval by bringing Johan Cruyff on loan to AC Milan for the tournament. Then, back in the transfer market, he helped negotiate the moves of Jan Peters to Genoa, Wim Kieft to Pisa and Ludo Coeck from Anderlecht to Internazionale. Imperia was now, clearly, too far from the action, so Konijnburg transferred his business to the city of Milan and brought in his son, Ricky, to help. Ricky, in fact, acted as escort and official interpreter for Groningen during their stay in Bari. It was while Groningen were in Italy that, according to the evidence deposited with UEFA, coach Berger was promised that his assistance in fixing the game would be further rewarded: Fraizzoli, it was alleged, would help Groningen build a new stand, and Berger could find himself being offered the job of chief coach at Verona or Pisa! Even more damning, apparently, Groningen general manager Theo Huizinga said that not only had he heard at least one of Konijnburg's incriminating conversations with Berger but that the go-between had said that he was acting on behalf of Fraizzoli and Inter.
On Thursday, November 17, UEF A's disciplinary commission met behind closed doors in Zurich. Berger gave evidence, then De Vries, then Fraizzoli. How well do you know Konijnburg? Fraizzoll was asked by commission chairman Vladimir Petr, Crom Czechoslovakia. Fraizzoli replied: "I have met him only once, in Milan, the day we signed Coeck - for whom Konijnburg acts as personal manager." But where, in all this, was Konijnburg? Not in Zurich. A double room had been booked in his name at the Zurich Hilton, but he never showed up. Instead he sent the commission a letter by special messenger presenting his excuses for being absent because of illness. Without the key witness the commission (which included Football Association secretary Ted Croker) clearly couldn't pass judgment.
It was thus decided to adjourn to December 15 - both when they could interview Konijnburg, and pass sentence . . . or absolution. Which left everyone up in the air - not least officials and players of FK Austria. They had to go ahead with their third round tie against Inter not certain whether they might not have to fit in replacement matches with Groningen before the quarter finals in March.
One last thought: Is it really ten years since Lobo, Solti, Derby and Juventus were being put through similar hoops?
This article originally appeared in the January 1984 edition of World Soccer Magazine. You can subscribe for a ridiculously low sum by clicking here.