Serie C crisis club Pro Piacenza were beaten 20-0 at Cuneo on Sunday after being able to field only seven players to start the match, the minimum number needed for a game.
Six of Pro Piacenza’s players, including their captain and coach for the day, Nicola Cirigliano, were under 18, while the seventh player to take to the field — to ensure the game could go ahead — was their 39-year-old kitman, since one of the youth players had reportedly left his identity papers at home and could not start the game. He later came on as a substitute, once his documents had arrived, after which the kitman — who had played with a borrowed No. 11 shirt and the name on the back covered with tape — was forced to limp off due to cramp.
Pro Piacenza were down 16-0 at half-time in the Italian third-tier clash, before going on to lose 20-0.
Their regular playing and coaching staff had refused to travel to Cuneo because of their ongoing wait for overdue wages.
Local media outlet Sport Piacenza abandoned its reporting of the match, writing that readers would be informed of the final result once the “farce” was over.
Francesco Ghirelli, president of the Lega Pro, told Sky Sport Italia: “What happened is an insult to sport and its principles. It’s a black page for football. We can only apologise to everybody, above all the fans.
“We need to follow the regulations, but today the notion of sporting loyalty was violated, and it has gone too far. Football has its problems, but the parents also have responsibility — why put these young kids through such a disgrace? As a parent, I’m really upset about this.”
Pro Piacenza had already forfeited three games in Serie C this season and played on Sunday because to miss a fourth would have seen them expelled under league rules. But Lega Pro will check the eligibility of the players fielded by Pro Piacenza, who could be forced to forfeit the game and, consequently, their place in the division.
The club, suffering severe financial problems, was sold for a nominal €1 last summer.
Senior players had been on strike and then left over nonpayment of wages, while those on loan returned to their parent clubs.
Pro Piacenza, which have changed their general manager four times in six months, prop up the rest of the division with just eight points, and relegation is inevitable even if the club gets through the rest of the season.
Cueno, who before the game had scored 18 goals all season, went 17-0 up with 20 minutes remaining, scoring their 20th goal in the 90th minute.
Information from ESPN FC Italy correspondent Ben Gladwell was used in this report.