Naming names

Liverpool say they have not been contacted by Europol or any other body with regard to the match-fixing allegations surrounding their 2009 Champions League match against Debrecen.

The game was named by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet as one of the matches under investigation. Europol is examining the Hungarian side Debrecen, who lost 1-0 to Liverpool at Anfield in 2009. There is no suggestion that anyone at Liverpool was involved in any wrongdoing.

Vukasin Poleksic, the Debrecen goalkeeper that night, was banned for two years in 2010 by UEFA for failing to report an approach from match-fixers involving a different game.

A Liverpool spokesman told the Press Association: “We have had no contact from Europol or any other organisation over this.”

Somewhat amusingly, the smart money was on Debrecen losing by 2.5 goals or more, but even fielding a goalkeeper reported to be in on the sting, Liverpool could only scrape a 1-0 win. Guess who was up front for Liverpool that night? That’s right, £50 million sharpshooter Fernando Torres.

According to 101greatgoals.com, ‘In text messages recovered by police – the people behind the match fixing bemoaned the fact Steven Gerrard missed some presentable chances against Debrecen.’

Poleksic, who returned from his two-year ban in June 2012, is a Montenegrin international. He could come face-to-face with Gerrard’s wayward shooting again quite soon, as England travel to Pogdorica to play Montenegro in a World Cup qualifier on March 26.

For the sake of clarity, it should be stressed that Debrecen stated that neither the club nor the player would react to the latest reports and chose instead to republish a statement they issued in 2010.

“In the view of the UEFA Disciplinary Committee, Vukasin Poleksic failed to comply with his duties when he did not report to Debrecen that before two Champions League matches unknown people tried to persuade him to influence the result,” the statement read.

“The investigation revealed that Poleksic rejected the requests. Furthermore, the probe found that the matches were not influenced by anything connected with the bribery.

“But the player committed an error by failing to inform the authorities immediately, therefore he was punished for not meeting the reporting requirement.”

Spanish practices

Match-fixing and illegal betting exist in Spanish football, but the authorities have yet to recognize the problem, a vice president of the country’s professional league (LFP) claims.

“Here the illness is not admitted to so you cannot cure the patient,” the LFP’s Javier Tebas was quoted as saying in Marca.

“There are institutions which are not aware of what goes on,” he said.

“There is match fixing and illegal betting. In a small percentage but there is also corruption in Spain.”

An inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors has uncovered about 680 suspicious matches allegedly fixed as part of a global betting scam run from Singapore.

Tebas told Spanish radio last month the LFP was aware that some matches in Spain were being fixed.

“We are trying to unmask the cheats, because there are cheats in Spanish football,” he said.

In the clear

While Spain frets about the extent of the scandal, Germany’s top two Bundesliga divisions appear to be in the clear, the German Football League president has confirmed.

About 680 suspicious matches including World Cup qualifiers and the Champions League, were identified in an inquiry by the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.

“According to our knowledge the Bundesliga and the second Bundesliga are not affected,” DFL President Reinhard Rauball said.

“But those who know that the betting business has a turnover of not thousands or millions but billions can suspect that criminals will set up their business there and profit from it,” he told reporters.

Germany has had its share of match-fixing scandals in the past decade with former referee Robert Hoyzer convicted and jailed for his role in fixing matches in 2005 on behalf of a criminal group led by Ante Sapina, who was sentenced to three years in prison.

The Croatian and his brother Milan, natural born recidivists the pair of them, were again arrested four years later when they were involved in a match-fixing ring in 2009 that also saw several dozen German games, mainly in lower divisions, rigged or suspected of having been rigged.

Chewing the cud

You might get fined for chewing gum in Singapore, but fix a few football matches and you’re an entrepreneur. And on the evidence of the match fixing scandal, you’re unlikely to be bothered by the police as you go about your daily business.

Singapore’s reputation as one of the world’s most law abiding nations has taken a hit after it was alleged that the Asian country lay at the epicentre of the global match-fixing scandal.

Europol identified 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world.

Singapore’s role in international match-fixing has long been clear, with Wilson Raj Perumal jailed in Finland in 2011 and another Singaporean, Tan Seet Eng or Dan Tan, wanted in Italy over the “calcioscommesse” scandal.

“This story has the potential to severely damage the global reputation of Singapore as a safe and ethical financial hub in Asia,” said Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of US-based consultancy Galaviz & Co, who has closely watched Asia’s gaming industry.

“Singapore’s public policy makers need to reassess whether they have enough resources dedicated to monitoring and enforcing laws relating to illegal gambling and sports corruption in the country,” he said.

If only it were that simple. The global match fixing phenomenon resembles a pernicious hydra – eradicate it in one country and it will resurface elsewhere.

“Major questions will arise as to what the government authorities in Singapore knew, when did they know it, and why this illegal network running out of Singapore was not caught sooner,” added Galaviz.

“Singapore’s status as a financial hub was potentially being used for nefarious purposes”.

To be honest, isn’t this the de facto role of financial hubs?

Put out

One man who could have done without the match fixing scandal rearing its ugly hydra head at the moment is Burkina Faso coach Paul Put.

Put, who has led Burkina Faso to the last four of the African Cup of Nations, was in charge of Lierse when he and players accepted bribes to throw matches in the 2004-2005 season.

“Match-fixing has always existed in football. If you look in cycling, at Lance Armstrong, it’s always him who is pointed at but everybody was taking drugs.

“When I played football I saw a lot of things. I don’t think you can change it. It’s unfortunate but I think in every sport you have to face those things,” he told reporters on Tuesday ahead of Burkina Faso’s semi-final meeting with Ghana in Nelspruit.

Lierse were paid to throw matches in what became known as the Ye scandal after the Chinese businessman Ye Zheyun, who Belgian police said was at the centre of the affair.

Put said he had fixed two matches while in charge at Lierse in 2005. He said his family had been threatened and feels he was made a scapegoat. There are strong echoes of Armstrong’s recent ‘confession’ in his refusal to take responsibility for his actions.

“You have to see what’s going on in football. There are a lot of big international players who are involved in match-fixing,” he said.

“I think it was worse in the past.

“It was a very hard time for myself and my family and my friends. If they point at you and you are the only one, it is hard. I was threatened by the mafia. My child was not safe. They threatened me with weapons and things like that.”

And yet, there must have been many players and coaches who manage to resist such threats.

Put was banned from football for three years.

“It’s not nice to talk about these things but this is the reality. I’ve been fighting, fighting, working, working, day and night and at least I now I have satisfaction,” he added.

“Now everybody in Belgium is turning and calling me, radio programmes, television programmes but I’m still the same Paul Put as before.”

Put claimed he had been forced into throwing matches.

“Fixing games is a big word. The team at that moment had nothing. It was in a very bad condition. There was no hope, no money, nothing. It was not by our will,” he alleged.

Put, who still faces a criminal trial in Belgium, is hoping success at the Nations Cup will open doors for a return to Belgian football.

Paying the price

FIFA has rejected appeals by Hungary and Bulgaria against sanctions for racist behaviour by fans and says both countries will play their next 2014 World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.

Hungary were punished after fans chanted anti-Semitic slogans and displayed offensive symbols during a friendly against Israel last year.

Bulgaria received the same punishment after fans racially abused Denmark’s defender Patrick Mtiliga in a World Cup qualifier in October.

Both countries challenged the ruling but FIFA’s appeals committee has upheld the decisions.

Hungary will now play Romania behind closed doors on 22 March, as will Bulgaria against Malta on the same night.

A FIFA statement read: “The appeals lodged by the Hungarian Football Federation and Bulgarian Football Union were both rejected and the decisions of the FIFA disciplinary committee rendered on 20 November 2012, are confirmed in their entirety.”

The Hungarian FA was also fined 40,000 Swiss francs (£28,000) and the Bulgaria FA 35,000 Swiss francs (£24,000).

The FIFA statement added: “Both associations been warned to their future conduct, and should such incidents of a racist/discriminatory nature occur again, the FIFA disciplinary committee would be left with no other option than to impose harsher sanctions, which could go as far as forfeiting a match, a points deduction, or disqualification from a competition.”

Quote of the day

‘To all the people asking if I have retired from international football. no I haven’t trap didn’t even know I was Irish. #whataclown.’

Reading defender Ian Harte, who won the last of his 63 Republic of Ireland caps in 2007, explains that the reason he hasn’t played for his country in recent years, is because Giovanni Trapattoni didn’t realise he was Irish.

Fan behaving badly

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Monday night’s incident at Gillingham which saw the visiting Wycombe goalkeeper attacked by a fan, was not so much the attack itself – idiots attending football matches are nothing new – but that the referee decided to book the hapless goalkeeper for time-wasting.

Sporting chance

The board of struggling Portuguese Premier League club Sporting led by president Godinho Lopes have resigned under two years after taking over following a string of bad results.

The head of the Lisbon club’s general assembly told reporters late that Sporting’s board elections were scheduled for March 23.

“Sporting’s board decided to renounce their mandate,” Eduardo Barroso said. “The board will stay in function until the elections and the club’s managing bodies plead for fans to support the club during this period.”

Godinho has presided over of the deepest crises in Sporting’s history, with the club languishing in ninth place in the league, 26 points behind joint-leaders Porto and Benfica.

Since Godinho took over in March 2011, Sporting have become a managerial merry-go-round, employing five different coaches – Domingos Paciencia, Sa Pinto, Oceano Cruz, Franky Vercauteren and Jesualdo Ferreira – all of whom have failed to deliver the goods.

In fact, one could say, that Sporting are one of the few clubs in world football who can justifiably claim to be in less turmoil as a result of their board resigning.

 

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