The city council of the Sicilian town of Corleone -- made famous by Italian-American author Mario Puzo as the home of fictional Mafia godfather Vito Corleone in books and films -- has revoked the honorary citizenship of soccer star Fabrizio Miccoli after the former Palermo club captain described a deceased anti-Mafia prosecutor as “filth” last month. The former striker was caught uttering the word during a wiretapped conversation with Mauro Lauricella, the son of a Sicilian Mafioso named Antonio Lauricella.

Miccoli was forced to apologize for insulting the memory of Giovanni Falcone, the crusading anti-Mafia magistrate who was blown up in his car outside Palermo in May 1992 by a fearsome mobster named Giovanni Brusca -- as retaliation for the convictions of hundreds of "men of honor" in several high-profile trials. The killing of Falcone, and the subsequent assassination of his colleague Paolo Borsellino about two months later, sparked national outrage against organized crime and triggered a severe crackdown on the mob. Both Falcone and Borsellino are revered as martyrs across Italy. "After he spoke in those terms about Giovanni Falcone, it was the least that we could have done," said Leoluchina Savona, the mayor of Corleone. She added that Miccoli could no longer “be presented as a role model.”

But losing the honorary citizenship of Corleone could be the least of Miccoli’s woes. Palermo prosecutors are investigating him on suspicion of extortion and for allegedly asking Mafia gangsters to retrieve some money owed to him by the owners of a nightclub in Isola della Femmine, in Sicily.

Corleone has long been trying to shed its image as the center of the Sicilian Mafia. In the 1980s, a mobster and Corleone native named Salvatore "Toto" Riina started a war against other crime families as well as against the state in a conflagration that killed hundreds of people. (Brusca was one of Riina’s top hitmen). Earlier this year, the town fathers of Corleone officially asked for "forgiveness" for the multitude of crimes committed by its lengthy list of criminals over the decades.

Ironically, last year, Miccoli participated in a charity soccer match designed to honor the memory of Borsellino and Falcone on the 20th anniversary of their deaths. Miccoli even dedicated some of his goals to Borsellino. Now, his image is in tatters. Eurosport reported that in the wake of the wiretaps, Falcone’s sister Maria said of Miccoli: “There are no words to describe Miccoli. It’s not even worth wasting a single word on him.”

After lengthy interrogation from investigators in Palermo last Wednesday, Miccoli, teary-eyed, declared his innocence. “I’m a footballer, and not a Mafioso,” Miccoli said. “I am against all the beliefs of the Mafia. In the six years that I’ve been here [in Palermo] I have tried to be open and friendly with everyone even without thinking about who or what I was actually coming face to face with.” He added: “I ask for the forgiveness of the whole city of Palermo. I ask for the forgiveness of my family, who brought me up in the context of proper values and respect. One day I hope to be a spokesperson for the association created by Maria Falcone.”

Massimo Zamparini, president of the Palermo club, has already announced that Miccoli’s contract would not be renewed. But Zamparini cautioned that: “footballers in the south [of Italy] have friendships with people not knowing whether they are criminals or normal people. Heaven knows how many criminals I have shaken hands with and to how many of those I would not have offered my hand.”