It did not take long for match fixing allegations to surface following the knockout round of the FIFA World Cup. Skeptics might be tempted to point to disgruntled fans looking to cope with the elimination of their national team as the reason for all the hype around these allegations. However in light of the World Cup’s history, there is enough evidence that suggests match fixing is in fact an issue. The foul play that took place leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has already been exposed, and in light of the recent allegations, the tournament in Brazil has been red-flagged by the same match-rigging operative believed to be mastermind behind South Africa’s rigged games. At least that is what the public is being told.
There are a few key things at play here, and historically, the flurry of misinformation is rampant following a high-profile incident such as match fixing at a nation-wide event. The first thing to look at is the recent allegation itself:
The German magazine, Der Spiegel, ran a story claiming that convicted match fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal, correctly predicted the outcome of the Cameroon-Croatia game just hours before the match took place. Thanks can go to the social media network that connects the world in an intrusive fashion, Facebook and its chat feature, for making the interview between Der Spiegel and Perumal possible.
Perumal, who was detained by authorities in Finland on an international warrant a year ago, allegedly chatted with Der Spiegel reporter, Rafael Buschmann, hours before the match and revealed more than just which team would win. Buschmann’s report claims that Perumal was able to accurately predict the 4-0 score, as well as the fact that one of Cameroon’s players would be ejected with a red card. Overall, Perumal speculated that there were seven “bad apples” on the Cameroon national team that were involved in the fixing operation.
Cameroon’s Football Association (Fecafoot) has since launched an investigation into the allegations. FIFA, on the other hand, declined to make comment on the matter until recently, and has since maintained that its own Early Warning System (a branch of the organization that monitors unusual trends in gambling markets) has detected no suspicious activity thus far in any of the 2014 World Cup matches.
Additionally, the company publishing Perumal’s memoirs has issued a statement on the alleged fixer’s behalf stating that the Facebook chat occurred three days after the game in question, not hours before as reported by the German magazine. According to Fox News, the authors of Perumal’s biography have also forwarded the Facebook chat to the Associated Press and the time stamp on the conversation was June 21, three days after the June 18 match. However it should be stressed here that neither a citation nor a source was offered to support the Fox News claim.
FIFA has asked Der Spiegel to hand over the transcription of the Facebook chat in order to settle the matter, however it has yet to hear back from the German magazine or the interviewer, Rafael Buschmann. What Buschmann did comment on was the accuracy of his initial report. In an email to the Associated Press, Buschmann spoke on behalf of the German magazine and claimed that they “firmly stand by our assertion” regarding Perumal’s Facebook chat.
As stated previously, Der Spiegel has yet to provide the transcripts of that conversation, and the allegations made by Fox that claim a copy of the chat was sent to the Associated Press have not been verified or made public.
The New York Times ran a story last month that tried to scratch the surface of match fixing as it pertained to the World Cup. Fixing operations have long been known to plague European Leagues, and Federbet (a European organization that monitors gambling circuits) reported that in 2014, match fixing had risen by 20 percent in England.
Another story run by the New York Times focused on the man behind the fixings, Perumal, and his recently published memoir that touts the accomplishments and the depths of match-rigging syndicates. More important than the memoir, however, were the article’s findings on the actions—or more accurately, the inactions—taken by FIFA in response to the initial reports of foul play in the 2010 World Cup.
After the 2010 tournament, a journalist by the name of Mark Gleason reported the suspicions of some of the South African officials that exhibition matches had been rigged. The clincher: FIFA did not begin an investigation into the South American matches until 2012.
FIFA recently released documents pertaining to their investigation of the South African exhibition matches and found that Perumal’s match-rigging syndicate and its hired referees were able to infiltrate global soccer organizations in order to fix the exhibition matches. Interestingly enough, FIFA never officially accused or banned anyone in connection with the disputed matches.
As of now, FIFA has issued a statement expressing its “serious doubts” of the recent allegations. Ralf Mutschke, FIFA’s head of security, focused on the seriousness of the allegations and how they have “put the integrity of FIFA World Cup matches in question.” A month ago, Mr. Mutschke also commented in the New York Times article and acknowledged that, “the World Cup in general has a certain risk [of match fixing].”
In the universe of whistleblowers, disgruntled football fans and highly profitable football organizations, allegations of match fixing are bound to be ever-present yet vaguely addressed by those in charge. The history of South Africa’s match fixing fiasco is telling, and unsurprisingly, “still under investigation.” The only option is to sit back and wait for the result. However, one thing is for certain: the recent allegations of the 2014 World Cup match-fixing fiasco hinge on one man who stands sell a ton of copies of his tell-all memoir.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
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