Former World Cup and European football referee Byron Moreno was arrested on drug smuggling charges earlier this week. The controversial official of the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals match between Italy and South Korea was visibly nervous to the customs agent that discovered the criminal at JFK Airport in New York.
After performing a casual search of the former ref it was reported that the customs agent could feel several “hard objects on the defendant’s stomach, back and both of his legs.” After a strip search of the suspect it was revealed that the former ref was smuggling 6 kilograms of heroin into the country from his native Ecuador. The heroin was divided into ten separate small baggies that were strapped to the suspects body.
Moreno is being held without bail and the crime will likely result in a long stay in prison for the former FIFA official. And several Italian footballers and the former coach have spoken out about the incident and many of these men have claimed for years that Moreno was out to get them that World Cup. It’s an interesting debate that FIFA will have to deal with, but how does a man fall so quickly from his respectable post? How does a man go from officiating one of the biggest matches of the last decade to becoming a heroin mule for some drug cartel? It makes you wonder what goes into the background check of these FIFA referees.
Italian national team keeper Gianlugi Buffon made the following statement about Moreno’s bizarre predicament:
I think Moreno already had the [heroin] in 2002, but not in his underwear, in his body.
Joking aside, when sports people get involved in drug cases it means they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. It also means they’ve lost the real meaning of the sport, which is also to save kids from the street and various dangers, like drugs.
Former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni made similar comments expressing to Azzurri fans that he hopes his unsuccessful World Cup run will be seen in a new light now that Moreno has been caught doing such a despicable act. And I’m sure several more footballers have said their fair share about Moreno’s bust-up at the airport and I’m sure a few more will have something to say sometime shortly.
In the end though, Moreno will get the proper punishment for the crime that he committed, but Italy fans will always have to wonder what could have been in 2002. Of course considering the fact they won the tournament in 2006 I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it, though.