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Buffon fearful of losing WC place

The goalkeeper pleaded his innocence in Serie A match-fixing scandal.

india Updated: May 14, 2006 11:22 IST

Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon pleaded his innocence after Italian media reports linked him with suspected illegal betting on

Serie A

matches last season.

In an attempt to clear his name and ensure that his place at the World Cup is not at risk, Buffon,arguablythe world's best goalkeeper,visited a Turin prosecutor of his own accord to give his version of events.

Buffon admitted to betting on matches in the past before stopping last year when the Italian football federation (FIGC) prohibited all kinds of gambling.

"I'm clean and I want to go to the World Cup," he said after leaving the magistrates' office.

"I've always respected the rules," he said. "I've bet on international football because here in Italy it's not possible to do so.

"But when players weren't allowed to bet, I stopped immediately. That was in the autumn of 2005."

It has long been forbidden for any player in Italy to bet on matches in their own championship, but last year the FIGC extended that ban to include any form of gambling.

If found guilty of breaking FIGC's rules on gambling, Buffon could face a ban from between three months to three years.

On Friday the Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Buffon and three former Juventus players were being investigated.

The Gazzetta said that prosecutors were studying telephone conversations recorded over a three-month period involving the quartet.

The paper said movements of large amounts of money in seven different bank accounts were also being investigated and that one player was believed to have gambled 600,000 euros in one year.

On Friday, four Serie A clubs— Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio— were placed under formal investigation for suspected match-fixing as the scandal that has gripped Italian football widened.

On Thursday the entire Juventus board resigned after transcripts of telephone conversations between Juve director Luciano Moggi and high-ranked FIGC officials were leaked to the press.

In the conversations, Moggi tells Pierluigi Pairetto, head of the Italian referees' association and a member of the UEFA's referees' commission, which referees he would like assigned to Juventus' matches.