ZURICH/BIRMINGHAM: Simone Farina, the Italian footballer who blew the whistle on a matchfixing attempt, has been appointed as a community coach by English Premier League club Aston Villa.

The role of the 30-year-old, who became a FIFA ambassador for fair play early this year, will include developing Aston Villa’s youth programme on integrity in sport.

Farina will continue as an ambassador against match-fixing for Interpol and the world federation, two organisations which in May 2011 formed a partnership to tackle corruption, match-fixing and organised crime related to illegal betting.

Paul Faulkner, Villa’s chief executive, said: “Simone will bring a whole depth of experience to our community coaching programme, he has already integrated well into the good work of our other coaches and we’re delighted as a club to have him here, carrying on an important role in the area of youth development.”

The former defender, who received special recognition from president Sepp Blatter at the FIFA Gala last January, went to  police after being asked to influence the outcome of a 2011 Coppa Italia game of his club at the time, Gubbio 1910. He rejected an offer of €200,000 and police subsequently broke up a major illegal betting ring.

Farina said: “It is important to me that I continue to work in football and that I am able to pass on my knowledge because football is an inspirational game. A year ago, I did not see my life moving in this direction but I am really delighted to be able now to contribute in this way.

“I am very honoured to have been entrusted with these responsibilities. I know I did the right thing when I refused to get involved in the fixing of a football game. But all I did was just abide by the rules. Therefore, my message for youngsters is simple: ‘Learn to respect the rules and have fun’.”

Hailing Farina’s appointment, Blatter said:  “I am very proud of Simone. We definitely need football to be clean, transparent and honest. That’s what Simone believes in. That’s what we believe in.

“It is crucial for the world of football to stand together with players who defend the game against match-fixing. They are role models for society, and especially the children who love our game. I wish to congratulate both Aston Villa and Simone, and wish them all the very best in their cooperation.”

Ronald Noble, secretary-general of Interpol, said: “Corruption in sport is a very complex problem for which there is no quick fix. In addition to strong enforcement efforts, all those linked to the ‘beautiful game’ must place a great emphasis on prevention. In this respect Simone Farina’s appointment by Aston Villa as a coach in its community outreach programme will allow him to continue to work to keep football clean.”

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