Sikhumbuzo Moyo Senior Sports Reporter
ITALIAN goalkeeper Giacomo Ratto has failed to make the grade at Tsholotsho FC and left for his country yesterday. The club leadership was quick to allay fears that Ratto’s presence at the rural club was part of an elaborate match- fixing ring that has again infiltrated Zimbabwean football.
Tsholotsho have also halted plans to bring in a Brazilian and four Ghanaians. Ratto was reportedly recommended to the club by a Portugal-based player intermediary Mario Texeira, who was sarcastic when asked what he had seen in Zimbabwean football to recommend an Italian to try his luck in the Castle Lager Premier Socer League.
Texeira said there was nothing amiss about an Italian choosing a seemingly small club in Africa, arguing that the legendary Diego Maradona once left Barcelona for a then unheralded Italian club Napoli.
“I’m aware that the some scandal has hit your country again, but it’s mainly with national team players and members of the FA (Zifa). I don’t see your point about the inquiry you are making. It’s like asking why a Portuguese coach and a Dutch coach are coaching in Zimbabwe,” said Texeira, in reference to Dynamos’ and Highlanders’ Paulo Jorge Silva and Erol Akbay respectively.
The Portuguese agent seems to have intricate details about Zimbabwean clubs and their administration. He said there was nothing amiss about Ratto coming to Zimbabwe to play for a small club.
“Maradona was at that time the best player in the world,” said Texeira but, he added, once played for Napoli, then a small club.
While confirming that the unfolding match manipulation scandal had put them on high alert, Tsholostho chairman Mlamuli Phiri said their scrutiny of the goalkeeper found him clean.
“When this match- fixing scandal broke out- we did a thorough scrutiny and saw that the boy was clean, he just didn’t make it, nothing else,” said Phiri.
Eyebrows were raised when Iziqholo zeZhwane brought in the Italian goalkeeper, who kept guard in the first game of the Bulawayo Football Festival when Tsholotsho played against Bulawayo City and lost in a penalty shootout. According to online information, Ratto has played for seven clubs, two in Italy, two in Switzerland, as well as teams in Malta, Panama and Nicaragua.