Footballer exposed in Sky TV’s Superfakes, Alessandro Zarrelli, signs for Downham Town

Downham Town's new signing Alessandro Zarrelli. Picture: Ian Burt

Downham Town's new signing Alessandro Zarrelli. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

An Italian who was exposed trying to trick his way into the professional game is now playing non-league football in West Norfolk.

Alessandro Zarrelli claimed to have been a youth-team player at Sheffield Wednesday, Glasgow Rangers and MK Dons when he tried to join clubs in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2005.

The midfielder also told Bangor City, Connah's Quay Nomads and Lisburn Distillery – who he briefly signed for – that he was in Britain as part of a cultural exchange programme organised by the Italian FA.

However, the controversial player was caught out a year later by Sky TV programme 'Superfakes' after they set up a sting operation to make Zarrelli believe he was talking to a scout about another move. A presenter soon interrupted the meeting to tell the then 22-year-old his stories did not add up.

The Italian quickly admitted he never played for the clubs he said he had and his 'agent' Matteo Colobase did not exist. Zarrelli ended the interview and left the room with his reputation in tatters.

Now, seven years later, the 28-year-old, also known as Alex, has arrived at Thurlow Nunn First Division club Downham Town where boss Pete Brassett is happy to give him another chance.

Brassett said; 'When I first met Alex he was very honest. He told me all about what has happened in the past.

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'We will move forward and it doesn't really affect me massively. The past is the past.

'Without a doubt he's trying to get his life back on track. Some people would have buried their head in the sand but he's come through it, picked himself back up again, and I respect him for that. He deserves a chance.'

The defensive midfielder, who lists Norwich United and Diss Town among his former non-league clubs, made his debut for Downham during Saturday's 2-0 home defeat to Halstead Town.

The 28-year-old impressed after coming off the bench with about 20 minutes to play. Brassett now hopes his trust in Zarrelli can be repaid and admits he's not met many people who are as obsessed with the beautiful game as the Italian.

The Downham boss said: 'He just loves his football. He can't get enough of the game. I could tell that straight away.

'When we spoke about him signing he wanted to know about our philosophy, what the club was like, how we try to play, all about our players and how we're looking to move forward.

'He's travelling from Loughborough to play for us so I don't see his signing as a risk. He will be judged on and off the pitch like any other player who comes to this football club. Alex has worked hard and I hope he can do well for us.'