1. DR Congo
“Wiping out football corruption in the Congo is impossible,” revealed Nazaire Diabinda, director of the Institute for the Deaf in DR Congo capital Brazzaville, after discovering that deaf and dumb teenagers, working as turnstile operators for $4 a game, were selling tickets at discounted rates to unscrupulous touts. Back in 2005, it had been estimated that half the income taken at turnstiles ( £100,000 every weekend) was being stolen. League secretary Badji Mombu claimed the deaf and dumb teenagers were “incorruptible,” but now inventive touts, having mastered sign language, convey to the turnstile operators that they will be rewarded if they sell tickets to them on the cheap. Gate receipts have now tumbled by 30%.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” claimed Goa journalist Anthony Marcus, after watching local side Wilfred Leisure hammer Dona Paula Sports Club 55-1 in 2004. The ridiculous result was due to Second Division rivals Curtorim Gymkhana and Wilfred Leisure’s bitter struggle for promotion from the Second Division as the season’s climax approached. Level on points, Wilfred had to win by seven goals more than Curtorim, but with officials discovering that their rivals were also hammering their rivals, the last games went goal crazy, and Curtorim won their game 61-1. All four teams involved were banned for a year, with local politicians widely blamed for the farce. Wilfred and Curtorim were also fined a princely $60.
“It’s necessary to remove this malignant tumour that has built up in Vietnamese football,” explained VVF President Trong Hy after launching an investigation into corruption in the South East Asian nation. In August 2006, referee Luong Trung Viet was found guilty of helping a Division 1 side fix games to gain promotion to the V League. A police probe discovered that as many as 150 games may have been fixed spanning twenty years, and 15 referees have been suspended over the last two years. Last season, the V League was nearly suspended as so many teams, and players, including star Vietnam striker Pham Van Quyen, had been banned due to corruption.
In May 2008, the President of Albanian side Tomorri Berat, Adrian Cobo, settled down for a coffee in a bar outside the Selman Stermassi Stadium, where his side had just defeated Dinamo Tirana to edge nearer the league title. Cobo had just joined match referee Luan Zylfo, when a gunman assassinated both of them. The fact that the murders barely registered outside the capital spoke volumes for the level of corruption in the game. Cobo’s wealth came from drugs, prostitution, and he was alleged to also have Mafia connections. “Football is like everything else in Albania,” explains SK Tirana President Sulejman Mema, “Rotten to the core. The referees are so poorly paid that they will take bribes from anybody.”
117 people, including referees, coaches, players and officials, have been charged in recent years with regards to match fixing, with 29 clubs implicated. Seven clubs were demoted in 2007/08, among them four times champions Widzew Lodz, before a court of arbitration overturned the ban. “We want to save this federation and we want to save Polish football,” insisted PFF Chairman Michal Listkiewicz, before the entire governing board of the PFF, tainted by scandal, stood down in September 2008.
In May 2008, Romania’s anti corruption department began investigating CCTV footage of a meeting at a restaurant in Cluj, where a group of Steau Bucharest staff and a Universitatea Cluj player were discovered waiting for the final whistle in the Championship deciding game between CFR Cluj and Universitatea. CFR won 1-0 to take the title by one point from Steau. Gazeta Sporturilor confirmed that four witnesses, holding 1.7 million euros allegedly to be paid to Universitaea Cluj if they prevented CFR Cluj from wining the title, were being detained. Steau owner Gigi Becali admitted the money was his, but, bizarrely, claimed the money was “for chocolates and candies.” The ongoing investigation into alleged wrongdoing continues.
Malaysian football has never fully recovered from a 1994 investigation which saw 21 players and coaches sacked, and 58 stars fined for accepting bribes from rival outfits. Add in the fact that Malaysian businessman Heng Suan Lim was implicated in the infamous Grobbelaar / Fashanu scandal, and the M League has had to work hard to improve its tarnished image in recent years. Late last year, the negative headlines returned, as the Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency detained seven players from the Sarawak State team and nine others from the Police Football Association over allegations of match fixing. “These types of problems simply go in cycles,” claimed the Malaysian President.
In 2006, Juventus were relegated from Serie A and stripped of their last two titles, after undercover police unearthed taped conversations of General manager Luciano Moggi, speaking to officials in order to ensure that the Turin outfit’s matches were overseen by pro Juve referees. The investigation sent shockwaves through Italian football and beyond, as giants AC Milan and Fiorentina suffered points deductions. Here was irrefutable proof that Italian football was corrupt, but for years, Southern Italian clubs had warned of “cold winds blowing in from the North,” and in the 60s, respected English football writer Brian Glanville had written of the “golden fix”; an unwritten rule that match officials looked favourably on the Milan clubs in European matches.
Andres Escobar’s shooting in a Medellin car park by drug dealers after Colombia’s disastrous World Cup campaign in 1994 was tip of the iceberg stuff. During their trial for the murder, the Gallon brothers suggested that a huge number of football club directors and managers had strong links with organized crime, the most high profile of which was flamboyant goalkeeper Rene Higuita, who was in cahoots with international cocaine baron Pablo Escobar. Since Escobar’s shooting, both Cali clubs have been investigated for links with the mob, and over the last five years, twenty top flight referees have been murdered. “Top players are immediately sold to European clubs,” claimed former international striker Freddie Rincon, “purely to line owners’ pockets.”
In 1978, Stasi chief Erich Mielke announced at a meeting that it was time Dynamo Berlin began to win trophies in East Germany’s Oberliga. For the next decade, due to Mielke’s considerable influence, Dynamo’s grip on the Oberliga was unbroken. Referees were nobbled, as the Stasi had final say over which officials went on the list for coveted UEFA and FIFA matches, away from the restrictions at home. Mielke also coerced players into joining his team, and recently opened Stasi files have proved that former Dynamo star Lutz Eigendorff was murdered after defecting to the West in 1983. Add in the fact that, during quiet moments at Dynamo matches, guard dogs could clearly be heard barking next to the Berlin Wall, it is little wonder that they were nicknamed “11 shits” by rival fans, presumably out of earshot from the dreaded Secret Police.