Alessandro Zarrelli1 (born 5 September 1984), sometimes referred to as Alex Zarrelli, is an Italian semi-professional footballer, who plays as a defensive midfielder for Heather St John's.
He gained minor notoriety in the United Kingdom for featuring on the 2006 Sky TV one off-documentary Super Fakes which exposed his efforts in attempting to con football clubs in Northern Ireland and Wales into signing him whilst an amateur player. Since being exposed by the TV show Zarrelli has gone on to play at semi-professional level in England and Scotland.
Super Fakes Documentary
In 2006 he was featured on a Sky TV documentary Super Fakes. During the 2004–05 season, Zarrelli a young Italian amateur footballer sent fake letters and faxes to clubs in Northern Ireland and Wales posing as an up-and-coming young professional footballer, who had been offered to clubs on a cultural exchange by the Italian Football Federation. The letter was signed by an Italian executive named Matteo Colobase; in reality Colobase did not exist. The letter promised the clubs a young Italian footballer who had supposedly played at youth level for clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday and Rangers. In reality Zarrelli was an amateur player who had once played youth team football for A.C.D. Asti and had never been attached to any of the clubs the letter claimed he had been a part of. He also claimed his brother had played for Torino which was also untrue. The first club he contacted was in January 2005, when he approached IFA Premiership side Lisburn Distillery, who eventually were duped into signing him on a short-term deal, but he was released after an underwhelming performance in a friendly against Finn Harps. He then contacted Welsh Premier League side Bangor City in July 2005, who were unaware of his previous exploits in Northern Ireland, but after staying with the club 10 days, manager Peter Davenport contacted Mike Rigg who worked for Zarrelli's supposed former club Sheffield Wednesday. Rigg said that they had never heard of him, equally Glasgow Rangers also confirmed that they had no knowledge of the player ever being on their books and Antonelli Valenti of the Italian Football Federation said Zarrelli's name appeared nowhere on the association's database at any level. Most of the problems started during his time at Bangor, when he requested a wage of £200 a week despite initially stating in one of his letters that his wages would be supplied by the FIGC.
Davenport said "He was only here for about a week to 10 days. In that time, I checked a bit into his background and it didn't add up. He arrived here with a broken nose, so he never actually played for Bangor. He just took part in one warm-up session. He wasn't anything special." Whilst staying with the club, he stayed in the town's Regency Hotel, owned by one of the club's directors, in which upon his departure, he failed to settle his bill. He also spent a brief spell with Connah's Quay Nomads where he was once again found out. Nomads secretary Bobby Hunter said of Zarrelli "He was your stereotypical smooth Italian. He certainly looked the part but he couldn't play to save his life. Our manager Neville Powell wasn't interested in him. I wondered why the Italian FA would want to send the cream of their youth to Connah’s Quay.". He later tried his luck in approaching Welsh Premier League champions Total Network Solutions FC just after they had met Liverpool in the preliminary stages of the UEFA Champions League. "We didn't pursue it, we did our homework beforehand" said TNS secretary, Ian Williams.
He was eventually exposed by the show which covered Zarrelli's story along with that of Ali Dia. The documentary was able to track the fax number Zarrelli had been using to a shop in Asti, Italy round the corner from his parents house. The crew set up a sting operation in London, where they staged a meeting posing as football scouts interested in signing him. Zarrelli showed up and began to talk for several minutes explaining that he had once played for Rangers and Wednesday and had been recently playing for Milton Keynes Dons. Asked about the fake executive Matteo Colobase, Zarrelli said that he was a friend of the family before the interviewer revealed to Zarrelli who he actually was. Zarrelli admitted his deception and later phoned the TV's presenters to sarcastically thank them for making him famous. This recording was played out at the end of the show.
Since the documentary Zarelli managed to progress to a career in semi-professional football and soon moved to Scotland where he played with Ardeer Thistle and Queens Park, before being loaned out to Irvine Meadow. He then moved back to England in 2010, to play with Northwich Victoria Hucknall Town, Lincoln Moorlands Railway. and Norwich United. In September 2012, he signed as a semi-professional footballer for Diss Town and days after his signature, club chairman Dicky Upson said that "he will be judged on his footballing ability", adding, "We are aware of what happened in the past, which was several years ago. The programme is still on YouTube and I have seen it. I have met and spoken with Alex and told him he will be judged on his footballing ability and nothing else at our club". In February 2013, he signed on loan for Downham Town.
Downham boss Pete Brassett said about his new signing, "When I first met Alex he was very honest. He told me all about what has happened in the past. We will move forward and it doesn’t really affect me or the club. The past is the past - without a doubt he’s got 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." In August 2013, Zarrelli joined Long Melford. He later moved on to Erith & Belvedere in January 2014 until the end of the season and would eventually suffer relegation from the Isthman League. Zarrelli joined Eastbourne Town in June 2014, where he signed a short term deal until September. When the deal expired he moved to Sheppey United. He went on to sign for Selkirk FC in the Scottish Lowland League
In July 2015 he joined St Cuthbert Wanderers. He later transferred to Boston Town and played in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup final. He joined Grimsby Borough in August 2016, but by November he had already been on the books at Barton Town Old Boys, Teversal and Heather St John's.