Jun 25 2014

About that World Cup


Fixed Soccer Matches Cast Shadow Over World Cup


MAY 31, 2014

A soccer referee named Ibrahim Chaibou walked into a bank in a small South African city carrying a bag filled with as much as $100,000 in $100 bills, according to another referee traveling with him. The deposit was so large that a bank employee gave Mr. Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela

The report found that the match-rigging syndicate and its referees infiltrated the upper reaches of global soccer in order to fix exhibition matches and exploit them for betting purposes. It provides extensive details of the clever and brazen ways that fixers apparently manipulated “at least five matches and possibly more” in South Africa ahead of the last World Cup. As many as 15 matches were targets, including a game between the United States and Australia, according to interviews and emails printed in the FIFA report.

Although corruption has vexed soccer for years, the South Africa case gives an unusually detailed look at the ease with which professional gamblers can fix matches, as well as the governing body’s severe problems in policing itself and its member federations. The report, at 44 pages, includes an account of Mr. Chaibou’s trip to the bank, as well as many other scenes describing how matches were apparently rigged.

After one match, the syndicate even made a death threat against the official who tried to stop the fix, investigators found.

“Were the listed matches fixed?” the report said. “On the balance of probabilities, yes!”

Inside the Fixing: How a Gang Battered Soccer’s Frail Integrity

By DECLAN HILL, The New York Times

JUNE 1, 2014

The detectives soon discovered that Wilson Raj Perumal, a match fixer from Singapore, was toiling away in Rovaniemi, working with several players, unbeknown to the coach. Mr. Perumal was considered a risk by his associates in a Singaporean match-rigging syndicate, so the group had sent a representative to Finland to tip off the police, Mr. Granat said.

The match-fixing syndicate Mr. Perumal worked for very effectively exploited soccer’s vulnerabilities. According to European police investigators, the syndicate has manipulated hundreds of professional soccer matches around the world by identifying players and referees ripe for bribery – particularly in countries that pay low wages.

Mr. Perumal learned his trade in an informal school for match fixers in Singapore, along with Tan Seet Eng, a Singaporean man known widely as Dan Tan. In the early 1990s, they would gather in the stadiums where illegal bookmakers would take bets on the Malaysian-Singaporean soccer league.

The fixers were so successful that a Malaysian Cabinet minister estimated that they succeeded in fixing more than 70 percent of the league’s matches. The corruption was so bad that the Malaysian-Singaporean league collapsed.

Uncle Frankie taught Mr. Tan and Mr. Perumal the dirty secret of international soccer: Many teams and their personnel are poor, so they often have players, coaches and referees open to bribes.

With its talented players with little money, Ghana is one of the countries that fixers frequently target at international tournaments, Mr. Nyantakyi said. So he was not surprised when, in 2007, it was discovered that there had been an attempt to fix an international match involving Ghana’s celebrated goalkeeping coach, Abukari Damba, who was working with the Singaporean fixers.

In February 2013, Europol, the European Union’s police intelligence agency, said the results of 680 matches worldwide from 2008 to 2011, including World Cup qualifying matches and European Champions League matches, were considered suspicious. Mr. Tan’s group did most of this work, investigators said.

The European investigators determined that Mr. Tan’s syndicate also managed to fix matches played in the United States. In 2010, it persuaded a majority of El Salvador’s national team to throw a game against D.C. United of Major League Soccer as well as an international match against the United States in Miami. Many of the Salvadoran players were subsequently barred for life.

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