Cristiano Doni celebrated the goals by placing the palm of his hand under his chin. Melena ninety and a half, ran towards the band and looked at the stands as if to say: “Here I go out to the field with my head high.” Doni was the captain and the star of Atalanta. The player who has scored the most goals in the history of the bergamasco team. But in 2001, when athletes could still bet on matches, he was accused of favoring a match-fixing against Pistoia in the Italian Cup. A process that also affected Massimiliano Allegri and for whose crime he was acquitted. That is why Doni celebrated each of the 112 goals he scored in his 296 games with Atalanta. The problem, it was learned later, is that the accusation was not a fantasy of the prosecutor and 10 years later he was caught in another. He left, set up a beach bar in Mallorca and until very recently, when his redemption arrived, he could not step on the stadium of his soul team again.
Doni’s Atalanta did not have much to do with the one who will face Real Madrid on Tuesday in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 (0-1 in the first leg). The team fought every year for survival and he was the top star, something similar to what Papu Gómez was in these times. They loved him so much that when dozens of carabinieri entered his house in Bergamo at dawn and took him away handcuffed in front of his family, half the city opposed it. He spent five days locked up and that week there were street demonstrations to defend his innocence. About 3,000 fans and friends paraded through the city center. But also some politician. “Take your hands off Atalanta,” read a banner. No one imagined that their captain, whom the City Council had made an honorary citizen, had betrayed them. That defense of the player turned first into hatred and, later, into indifference.
The shadow of the rigging, often piloted by the Italian mafias, has always persecuted calcium. It happened before the World Cup in Spain, in a case that even affected the star of that tournament, Paolo Rossi. But it has been repeated so many times and has seen figures such as Inter coach Antonio Conte (suspended for three months due to failure to report, the same crime attributed to Doni). The practice reached the cusp of the sewer with the Calciopoli case, in whose command tower was the then Juventus sports director, Luciano Moggi. A case that cost Vecchia Signora the descent and the eternal stigma of promiscuity with the referees.
The Doni scandal, who played the World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002, was one more. But it cost Atalanta a six-point sanction, which at that time was no small thing for a team that lived installed every day on the relegation guillotine. Calvary season, in fact, they had just gone up to series A and Stefano Colantuono sat on the bench. The revolution of Gasperini, the current coach, had not reached the game system. From the fourth position that the team occupies today in Serie A and the successes in Europe, the club has turned the page of a memory turned into the black hole of its history.
Doni, who is 47 years old, today manages some real estate businesses and scouts for grassroots football. Just before retiring due to the sanction he received and after spending a year at Mallorca – where he opened the beach bar in Palmanova – the club renewed his contract for two more seasons despite the fact that he was already 38 years old. His dream was to become a manager at Atalanta. “After death, what happened to me is the worst that can happen to you,” he recalled in an interview with Il Foglio last year. His crime prescribed. But for years he could not return to the stadium and when he wanted to see a match for his team, he did so on a trip. Just before the pandemic, which hit Bergamo more than any other city, he asked the president for it and did so for the first time.