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Was the UEFA Champions League draw rigged?

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Funny how AS Roma apparently already knew about its upcoming match against Liverpool... on Thursday.

UEFA director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti shows the slip of as AS Roma during the draw for the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League football tournament at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on December 11, 2017.
Dum, dum, dum!
Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

If it seems inevitable to you that Bayern Munich would draw Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals, it may be because it was. That, at least, is the implication of a screenshot that has surfaced on reddit. It appears that Roma was advertising tickets for the second leg of the Champions League semifinals against Liverpool, scheduled for May 2, yesterday. See for yourself:

The screenshot in question, showing Roma vs Liverpool, May 2, 2018.
Posted to reddit.com/r/LiverpoolFC by user ijuchtmeme.

The screen shot comes from options available to season ticket holders. The text above the matches (“la partita” = match) explains that A.S. Roma must verify the identity of ticket-holders, but it is possible to change the authorized holder to another person. The events listed are Roma’s upcoming tie against Genoa and then the fateful draw against Liverpool.

Funny how that worked out!

It may be fake, or it may be an innocent mistake made sinister by coincidence, but Italian soccer—let alone UEFA and FIFA—does not exactly enjoy the best reputation. It was over ten years ago that a massive match-fixing scandal (Calciopoli) rocked Serie A, resulting in Juventus Turin’s relegation to Serie B. And yet another group of clubs and former players was implicated in another match-fixing scandal that played out over 2011-12.

As for UEFA, some eyebrows were raised last season when Ian Rush went straight for the ball containing Atletico Madrid, thus pitting them against Real Madrid and avoiding an(other) all-Spanish final. And in 2016, Roberto Carlos strangely had second thoughts about which ball to choose when picking the teams for the Champions League group stage. Many believe that UEFA heats or chills certain balls so they can be identified by the drawer.

To conclude, I’ll quote Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad,

“Frog,” asked Toad, “was that a true story?”
“Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t,” said Frog.

And what fixed match would be complete without Sergio Ramos?

As a footnote to the conspiracy, many speculated that Real Madrid’s bogeyman-in-chief Sergio Ramos would face a first-leg ban for watching the final minutes of Real vs Juventus from the tunnel of the Santiago Bernabeu. The tunnel is considered part of the technical zone of the field, and Ramos was there when referee fatefully award Real the penalty that dispatched Juventus, sending off iconic goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a red card. He also could be seen talking with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri after the penalty was awarded.

Bayern’s own Xabi Alonso, then with Real Madrid, was punished for celebrating the 2014 Champions League final with the team despite being banned from the match. He duly served his punishment for “breach of general principles of conduct”—but months later when it no longer mattered.

But of course Sergio Ramos won’t be banned for the first semifinal match against Bayern. UEFA informed Real Madrid that they would not suspend Ramos, because the rules state that he must be at “pitch level,” and the tunnel is apparently slightly below it as anyone can see. UEFA thus will not act on the match report diligently filed by UEFA delegate (and German) Rainer Koch.