How to fix a soccer game

jiuguangw | Flickr

jiuguangw | Flickr

In this excerpt from The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime, Declan Hill investigates the intricacies of match-fixing in soccer: how fixes are arranged, how they’re signalled, and how everyone gets paid.

* * *

Kenan Erol was a man with a plan. On April 6, 2005, he walked up to Sefer Hakan Olgun and tried to bribe him. Erol brought a bag stuffed with 500 euros to his meeting with Olgun, the goalkeeper for the Turkish Super League side Akçaabat Sebatspor. There were a couple of reasons why it might have been a good idea to bribe the Akçaabat Sebatspor keeper. Coming into that Saturday’s game, Akçaabat Sebatspor was almost certain to get relegated. They were bottom of the league table, eight points behind their nearest rivals. Their opponents in the match were Kayserispor. They, too, were in a relegation battle, but they still had a good chance of staying in the Super League if they could win the game. But there was another, more compelling, motive for a fix to happen. The morning of the game, someone walked into a betting shop in the nearby town of Trabzon and bet more than 250,000 euros with a Turkish betting agency that Akçaabat Sebatspor would lose. Somebody wanted Akçaabat Sebatspor to lose the game and was willing to pay someone a lot of money to make sure that they did. Kenan Erol was their man.

Erol talked to at least three other players on the team, but he needed to make sure the goalie, the player who could save or destroy a team’s chances with a couple of mistakes, was on board. Kenan Erol met Olgun. But it really was not Kenan Erol’s day. Why not? Because Olgun secretly taped their conversation.

Erol: I have spoken to all the other players about this fix. The others know about it.

Olgun: What? The whole team knows?

Erol: Don’t worry about it!

Olgun: I don’t understand. Do you want me just to leave the goal area and “eat” a goal?

Erol: First half you will be ahead 1-0. But Kayseri should win the game. You should let in two or three goals in the second half.

Olgun: Can I trust these people?

Erol: The money is in the car. Let me show you.

Olgun: So this is both betting business and also you have an arrangement with the other team? Is that right? Does our team management know?

Erol: If this “encouragement” went to your management, you won’t get a single lira! I’m trying to do you a favour. These guys are trying to bet 500 to 600 billion lira. [He shows him the bag with the money inside]. There are 200,000 euros in the bag and there will be more. Just get the score we want.

Olgun: Brother! They are all 500 euro notes. I have never seen that much money in my life! Are you going to give it to me?

Erol: When the match is finished, it will be in your pocket.

Olgun: I have 130 to 140 billion TL [Turkish lira, approximately 84,000 euros] debt. How much will I get?

Erol: At least 75 billion TL [approximately 45,000 euros]. The rest will go to your friends.

The identity of “these guys” who were purportedly willing to bet 500 to 600 billion Turkish lira on the game has never been revealed. But the potential payoff of the bet could have been spectacular: for getting the score line exactly right, the unknown bettors could have netted twenty-five times their initial stake. However, when Veli Sezgin, the chairman of Akçaabat Sebatspor, heard about the attempts to bribe some of his players, he fitted out his goalkeeper with a tape recorder. The fix attempt failed and the game was drawn. However, his gutsiness may have cost him. In August 2005, four months later, someone ambushed Sezgin and shot him. He was severely wounded but survived. The transcript of Erol’s meeting with Olgun did give the Turkish Football Federation an accurate record of what happened. Their administrative board suspended six players for their alleged role in the fix, gave Hakan Olgun 50,000 Turkish lira as a reward for his coming forward, and invited Kenan Erol to explain his actions before their committee. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Erol declared that he was unavailable to meet with the committee, and perhaps surprisingly, the Turkish police declined to pursue the case. Possibly they believed Erol’s original statement when he declared that the whole thing had been an eastern Turkish joke that had been unappreciated by the Istanbul sophisticates.

That a fix attempt or even a mob-style ambush would happen in Turkish soccer is no surprise. The league is notorious for the connections between its soccer officials and leading mafia figures. A few months before the fix attempt, in November 2004, the Turkish parliament opened an inquiry into the links between a notorious mafioso, Sedat Peker, and the soccer league. His mafia associates had been covertly taped arranging matches with referees and club officials. However, neither the attention of the politicians nor the interest of the Turkish Football Federation seemed to have stopped Peker’s years of activities in the Turkish league.

If Sedat Peker were the only criminal to be involved with a Super League squad, Turkish soccer would still have a problem. But he is not. Bes ̧iktas ̧ is one of the big three clubs of Turkish soccer, equivalent to Liverpool or Inter Milan. However, for all their success, the Bes ̧iktas ̧ team management had a curious fondness for Alaattin Çakıcı. Alaattin Çakıcı was a leading member of the Grey Wolves, a paramilitary organization that tortured and killed political dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. Çakıcı graduated into organized crime, murder, and drug dealing in the 1990s. But when the police finally came to arrest him, thirty years after he began his career of violence and intimidation, they discovered he had good friends at the Bes ̧iktas ̧ soccer club. In fact, the Bes ̧iktas ̧ manager liked Çakıcı so much that when the police came looking for him, he helped him escape the country by arranging a visa under a false name.

His bribery attempts were inept and clumsy, his instructions were incompetent, and in conversation he displayed all the finesse of a dodgy used-car salesman. But if he wanted to, how could he improve his performance?

For all the murky circumstances around Kenan Erol, the Akçaabat Sebatspor team in particular, and the Turkish league’s mafia connections in general, one thing is clear: Kenan Erol should stick to his day job. Normally, Erol is a businessman. Hopefully, he is good at “business,” because he is a terrible match-fixer. His bribery attempts were inept and clumsy, his instructions were incompetent, and in conversation he displayed all the finesse of a dodgy used-car salesman. But if he wanted to, how could he improve his performance?

My intellectual mentor for this question is Michael Franzese, a character you could only find in America. He is the son of notorious mob hitman John “Sonny” Franzese. Michael became a capo for the Colombo crime family of New York while still in his twenties. His rise to prominence was partly due to his family connections, but mostly due to an extraordinary gas-tax scam scheme he organized with Michael Markowitz, a criminal connected with the Russian mafia. The scheme consisted of opening and closing hundreds of shell companies that owned gas stations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The companies collected the gas tax from their customers, declared bankruptcy, and then never paid the tax to federal, state, and county authorities. It was simple, straightforward, and it netted his “family” hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It was the perfect crime: lots of money, little risk, and low penalties if caught. On the side, Franzese fixed professional sports games, including, some people claim, New York Yankees baseball games. In the 1990s, after a series of federal busts, Franzese went straight, moved to Hollywood and became, of course, a movie producer.

I met him when he came to Canada. He had become a devout born-again Christian and was promoting an anti-drug concert tour in Toronto. I was researching the documentary about the Russian mafia and the National Hockey League for Frontline when we spoke briefly. Franzese was very straightforward:

My personal opinion as one who has been involved in organized crime and gambling is how easy it is to do. … It is very easy to get a professional athlete to come “on side.” We would spend a lot of time trying to get these guys to do this … we would deliberately target them … Heck, a lot of the time they would come to us!

Tall, dark-haired, and dressed in black leather, Franzese is an interesting man. When I met him, he was with his wife, Camille Garcia, who he credits for turning around his life. They had brought their baby with them and seemed to present the picture of a hard-working, happy family. But it is not difficult to see Franzese as the mobster he once was: he oozes intelligence, power, and danger. He knows what it takes to get a sportsman to come on side:

Athletes like to gamble. They are confident, aggressive risk-takers. All the things that make them good athletes make them good gamblers … Once they got in trouble with us, we got them to do things for us. They would shave points, you know, maybe not try so hard. Or just share information, let us know what was going on.

Franzese is no one’s fool. He understands the psychology of people and he used it in his fixing. I asked him whether it was difficult to get sports people to throw games. Franzese replied that if you are a mobster, you actually want to be friends—at first—with sports people. The idea is to find their weakness. If it is blondes, you use blondes. If it is drugs, you use drugs. Whatever it is, you use it to get a hold over the sports person. Then you try to get them to throw games:

You might approach them or set them up with a woman. She would get pregnant or pretend to be. That would screw their game up. Or you would get them partying hard the night before the game.

This amoral brilliance for discovering human weakness, which Franzese now renounces, was at the heart of his success at match-fixing. However, the first problem that confronts a gambling match-fixer, brilliant or not, is how to get access to the players. If the match-fixers cannot speak to the players, then they cannot arrange a fix. Yet access to the world of the players is closely guarded, not only by the players but also the people close to them. How then do match-fixers get access to the players?

For long-term match-fixers working in their own domestic league, the process is something akin to seduction. The Prosecutor’s Report of the Berlin Staatsanwaltschaft has a description of the Sapina brothers, the Croatian gamblers who were able to persuade Robert Hoyzer to “come on side,” and their sports bar, where many of the German referees not only partied at but felt comfortable. Other fixers may try to establish them- selves in some official capacity at the club. In international games and tournaments, the match-fixers have to rely on other methods. Several players and officials talked about the match-fixers manoeuvring so as to share the same hotel corridor. The fixer would then sometimes use prostitutes to establish a connection between the players and themselves.

It is not enough for a match-fixer simply to be introduced to players—being in the same room does not guarantee a successfully fixed match. What is also important is how the match-fixer approaches a player. There are two main types of approaches, and ironically, they mirror the two principal business strategies of erotic dancers in North American strip bars.

The second method fixers use to get access to players is to hire that access. In this scenario, they employ agents, known as “runners,” to ensure access between them and the players, or they may even set themselves up as “player-agents” who will represent the players in corporate and business deals. In the Asian leagues, where corruption is purportedly better established than in Europe, there exists a series of independent runners who work for corrupt players on each of the teams; these runners could then be contacted by potential match-fixers when they wanted to establish a fix. Chin Lai (*) is a former player who was approached a number of times to fix games. He also had teammates who fixed games. He claims that runners were key to the operation. They would make friends with players, figure out which players may be susceptible to bribes, and then introduce them to national-level bookies.

… there were runners. They were ex-players, good friends of the team. Sometimes they would be guys we would meet in a disco. The owner or someone, they would party with us for months. Then maybe say something. These guys were key. They had to be people with access to the players. They had to be people the players would trust. It was the same as the cricket fixing. You needed people who could contact the team. They were vital. They had to be people who could come to training sessions or games and matches.

The common thread between these two methods—direct contact or runner-arranged—is at this initial stage, the match-fixer is simply seeking to gain access to as wide an assortment of players as possible. How players are approached to make the corrupt deal and what is said to them is decided in the next stage.

*

THE SET UP

It is not enough for a match-fixer simply to be introduced to players. As Kenan Erol, the unsuccessful Turkish match-fixer showed, being in the same room does not guarantee a successfully fixed match. What is also important is how the match-fixer approaches a player. There are two main types of approaches, and ironically, they mirror the two principal business strategies of erotic dancers in North American strip bars.

For anyone innocent enough not to have been in a North American strip bar, this is how they work. A whole bunch of men go in with lots of money in their pockets to look at semi-naked women. They think the whole experience is about sex. They are wrong. The semi-naked women know the whole experience is about getting as much of that money out of the men’s pockets as possible. In other words, it is about profit maximization. To make that money, a woman will have to do as many lap-dances as possible. A lap-dance is when the dancer will grind herself against a customer for the length of one song. She will receive a set fee for each song. Believe it or not, how the women get the men to hire them has been the subject of extensive sociological study. Some of the research has been done by traditional male academics, but lots of feminists have also studied the business and discovered that the dancers generally choose one of two business strategies: there are those who try for fast bucks—quick, direct approaches to as many different customers as possible (“Hi, honey, want to see my tits?”); and those who manufacture “counterfeit intimacy” or pseudo- relationships with specific customers (“Hi, sweetie, you look like you had a long day—want me to sit down and be your little girl?”) who then spend more money on them.

The Asian match-fixers, when they are working in leagues with lots of corruption, often use the “fast bucks” approach. Tohari Paijan was a player who agreed to play in fixed matches in the Malaysian-Singaporean league. When asked about the methods of approaches, he replied, “Oh no, there was nothing subtle. They would just call us up at the hotel and propose it over the phone.” This method is also common when access is limited. For example, in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the FIFA-ranked referees were hidden away in a maximum-security compound used by the Vatican in central Rome. One source reported, “It was incredible. The phone lines were supposed to be confidential and unlisted, but the referees were receiving phone calls in their rooms from bookies offering bribes.” In these examples, because there was so much corruption in the league, in the first case, and access was so restricted, in the second case, the match-fixers had to use fast, direct approaches.

In leagues where corruption is rarer, fixers face a more difficult job. It is at this point that the counterfeit intimacy method is frequently used. One example was described by a U.S. college basketball player in the early 1960s. Art Hicks was black. One day, after a white teammate made yet another racist comment, Hicks decided to fix some games with an organized crime syndicate. He was eventually caught and when he testified he revealed how the match-fixers were “experts at human nature”:

One thing you never heard about the gamblers is how good they were at what they did. They were experts at human nature and that’s why so few of the kids they approached ever turned them down. They catch you at just the right time, when you’re vulnerable. They can look at a kid’s game and see there ain’t no love there … Whatever the problem, they knew how to exploit it. The gambler becomes the most reliable person in your life. He replaces the coach.

This is what the former New York mafia capo Michael Franzese was talking about when he spoke of “being friends” with the players first and then using their weaknesses against them. Here a match-fixer is not trying the direct, fast method; it is more like a savage animal stalking its victim. The fixer is getting close to his prey (the athlete) and weakening or using weakness to propose match-fixing.

However, for all this discussion about relationship-building, how do match-fixers actually propose a corrupt deal? What language do they use? When German referee Robert Hoyzer was persuaded by Croatian gamblers to fix matches, he struggled to explain how they were able to do so. He had always regarded himself as a very honest and a well-brought-up person, yet in a relatively short time they were able to persuade him to do something that he never would have considered before:

It was an ongoing process that I wasn’t aware of any more in the end. It affected me in a way that I stopped noticing things going on around me. I only hung out at this café, at some point it was like my second living room. I was around all the time. I was there eight days out of the week and was treated by them like a very special person.

A soccer administrator in Malaysia describes a similar pattern in proposing match-fixing where the fixers use language that would allow the players not to “feel criminal in their thinking … they [the match-fixers] would call it coffee money.” Another popular form of corrupt invitation is for match-fixers to say, “You can get X amount of money for just ninety minutes of work. Think about it.” These invitations are couched in a lovely, neutral language, as if there were nothing wrong with the proposal.

The following excerpt is a good example of how to set up a fixed game in a league of high corruption. It is a direct, fast-bucks approach. Chieu (*) was one of the match-fixers in the Malaysian-Singaporean league of the early 1990s. He was something of “an expert in human nature” and along with other fixers who created networks of corruption throughout the league he made himself a great deal of money. This excerpt is from one of the previously unpublished police confessions; the player is reenacting the general outline of his first conversation with the fixer. Chieu had already established a relationship with David (*)—a top Malaysian player—who then introduces him to two other players—Ali (*) and Rahil (*)—on his team to help set up a match-fixing ring.

David: This is our friend Chieu.

Chieu: I am Chieu. [Ali and Rahil shake hands with him]. I have come here to talk to you. I will try to help you reach the final of the Malaysian Cup. Okay, I’ll make it simple! First, I help your team in five games. I will pay you 15,000 RM for winning each game. After winning those five, you will have to lose or draw the game. I will pay you 25,000 RM to draw a game, and to lose a game 40,000 RM.

David: Don’t worry! The Boss [Chieu] will help us out.

Chieu: Okay, easy to talk. I control your coach. I brought in your two foreigners. I paid the transfer fees for them, not the state FA.

Rahil: I will think it over fast.

Chieu: [Gives him an envelope full of cash] This is the FA Cup money.

David: Don’t worry. Chieu will help.

This excerpt shows the difference between Chieu and the far less subtle Kenan Erol. For a start, Chieu does not show up alone to the meeting. Rather, he uses a player to introduce him to other players. This action immediately helps to establish his credibility. David, a prominent player, twice vouches for Chieu’s trustworthiness.

He also shakes hands with the players. Chieu shows himself to be from a similar working-class background from the Malay vernacular he uses (this was stressed a number of times by the translator, although it is, obviously, not apparent in the English version) and is friendly and direct with the players. This is in contrast with the attitude of many club owners, who tended to patronize their players. Often players were expected to kiss the hands of the owners when they met them. Chieu, on the other hand, is courteous and, he claims, has the same owners on his payroll already. Even if this later claim turns out to be untrue, it still puts the idea in the players’ heads that it might not be, making them fearful of going to the management. Again, this is in direct comparison to Kenan Erol, who, when asked if he controlled the management, showed instantly that he was an outsider with little power. So in a few sentences, Chieu has managed to both be ingratiating and to isolate the players from their management.

In internal fixing, the ultimate goal is to fix the result of the game. The people who fix those games, really care which team wins the game. In gambling fixing, the fixers don’t care which team wins the game, but they do care about making as much money as possible.

David C. Whelan, a former New Jersey police officer turned criminal justice professor, wrote about organized crime’s involvement in point-shaving in college basketball. He claims that at the beginning of their relationship, “win bonuses” are paid by match-fixers to players to play as well as they can. Players regard the win bonuses as relatively benign: they will win and thereby keep the loyalty to their teams, but they still get the financial rewards of fixing matches. However, these payments were often what Whelan calls “gateway crimes,” which brought the players into the match-fixers’ net without them being aware of it.

Chieu uses Whelan’s “gateway crime” approach. He claims that if the players co-operate with him, they will not only get money for winning the next five games, but that he will also help them reach the final of the Malaysian Cup. Then he gives the players money for a game they had won several weeks ago. This is an important step. For as soon as the players accept the money, they have de facto accepted Chieu’s offer of a long-term relationship. The acceptance of the match-fixer’s money by the players, no matter what the motivation, signals the closing of the deal and the end of the possible innocence of the players. A Singaporean police officer supported this view in an interview: “But you know if they take the money once, it is over. They can never turn back because the gamblers will say, “If you don’t do it, we will let people know that you took the money.”

However, another match-fixer said, “As soon as [the players] take the money, they have to do what I say. I don’t do this thing where I show them the money and say, ‘This is yours if you do the match.’ No, I give them the money. I say, ‘This is coffee money. Take it. But don’t cross me. Or I will get you.’”

Now the fixer is not only showing the importance of player accepting the money, but he is also showing the change in attitude, from friendliness to menace (once the players have agreed to the corrupt deal) that drives the next stage of match-fixing.

*

CALLING THE FIX

From all the coverage around the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the purported mysterious death of coach Bob Woolmer, someone might think fixing is new to that game. However, match-fixing in cricket has a history that is at least two hundred years old. In 1806, English cricket was rife with match-fixing. There were criminal bookmakers who set up their shops underneath the stands at Lord’s cricket grounds, and like their Asian counterparts two centuries later, they were very trustworthy in paying their customers and extremely willing to fix games to cheat their rivals and their customers. William Beldham was a prominent cricketer who was approached by match-fixers to throw games. He claims that he refused, saying, “You never buy the same man but once … No, sir, a man was a slave when once he sold to these folk.” Beldham is describing the attitude change that affects the relationship between the players and the match-fixers once the players have taken their money. It is the same transformation that Michael Franzese spoke of when he told me: “You don’t treat the fixers as friends … you’re more friendly with the guys who don’t throw the games …”

Why would the dynamics of this relationship change so dramatically, particularly after the match-fixer has spent so much effort in getting access to the players and then setting up the fix? It is because at this stage, the match-fixer’s greatest chance of loss or profit can occur. Gambling match-fixing differs from internal fixes like the ones in the Russian league. In internal fixing, the ultimate goal is to fix the result of the game. The people who fix those games, really care which team wins the game. In gambling fixing, the fixers don’t care which team wins the game, but they do care about making as much money as possible.

There are actually two fixes going on: the fixing of the game and the fixing of the gambling market. To fix the market, the match-fixer has to look at the spread of the betting market, place the bet that will ensure the greatest profit, and then ensure that the players deliver that result. So the match-fixer has to make sure that the players will follow instructions to the absolute letter. Failure to do so ensures an enormous loss of money on the match-fixer’s part. The establishment of the phony relationship with the player is over; now it is all business.

In 1919, Jewish mobster Arnold Rothstein, working with the Chicago White Sox, fixed baseball’s most important competition, the World Series. The problems facing contemporary soccer match-fixers are almost identical to the ones faced by Rothstein. The chief problem is that they have to be able to get a sufficient quantity of money on to the market to make the fix worthwhile. However, if Rothstein, or any contemporary match-fixer, tried to place a heavy bet on one team, then the betting market will quickly become aware that there is something crooked going on. In general, betting companies know who the criminals are, but if Rothstein, or one of his known associates, had walked into an illegal betting shop and bet $10 on a game, no one would have noticed. If Rothstein or one of his associates had walked into an illegal betting shop and bet $60,000 on the game, then it would have been known throughout the market in hours. A fixer has to disguise the fact that he is placing the bets or his rivals will be aware of the fix. This is a problem shared by many successful gamblers who never even think of fixing a game. I spoke with a number of professional gamblers who were convinced that the bookmakers who were taking their bets were secretly stealing the bet, telling them it was not possible to get the money on and then betting themselves with other bookmakers. To overcome this problem, many successful gamblers and fixers hire their own agents to place their bets for them. These agents then hide the fact that they are placing a bet for the fixers.

A match-fixer will want the market to lean heavily against the fix—so the team he controls is expected to win. To encourage bettors to bet for the fixing team, he might spread a rumour that the other team has been weakened: an injury to a key player, dissension in the dressing room, or, ironically, that he has fixed the other team!

However, a match-fixer can also fix with the market to avoid detection, which means lower short-term profit but also less chance of detection. This is the real danger for European soccer leagues because this type of fixing can go on for years and no one suspects a thing. For example, a weak team is to play a strong team. The market expects the strong team to win. The match-fixers fix the weak team, pile on as much money as possible for the strong team and few people will suspect a fix as the result occurs as the market predicted. A Finnish fixing player testified in 2005 to this method:

I have taken money for a few games. This has been going on for years. The most recent case is from the last season. In this case, it was just a normal league game. We had gone to the game as the underdog, and so the loss did not surprise anybody.

Because much of sport betting is done in the two hours before the game begins, the later a match-fixer can place his bet, the easier it is to place bets on the market, and the more profit he can make. Say, for example, a match-fixer has established a link with players on Team A; he sees the betting market is betting heavily in favour of Team A winning the game. Ideally, the match-fixer would want to bet heavily at attractive odds (because if he comes into the market too early, it can cause the odds to change) and then signal to his team to “open up the game”—lose—in the minute before the game is to begin. This would ensure the match-fixer of the greatest profit. However, the match-fixer faces a problem: how can he signal to his players without attracting any attention and let them give him a signal that they have understood the signal in the final minutes before a big match when all the spectators, teammates, and officials are now watching them? One solution to this problem was described by an Indonesian match-fixer, who said:

What I do is have my runner stand beside the team box wearing a red singlet if the team is to lose. When they come out onto the pitch, they stand at the halfway line and salute the crowd. They see my runner wearing the red singlet and they know they must open up the game. If I wanted them to play hard, I would get my runner to wear a blue singlet. Now when the players see the runner, they must put their hands on their hearts, as if they are saluting the crowd. This is their signal to let us know they have seen and understood the signal. They cannot pretend later not to have seen the signal.

The match-fixer has now called the fix, ordering the players to rig the game in a certain way. Now it is up to the players to deliver the right result.

*

PAYMENT

The final stage of the fix comes after the game, when the fixer pays the player or referees. These payments have to be either hidden or deniable. The players are, for the most part, public figures. Their salaries are well known. Their lifestyles are closely examined. Their honest teammates work and play with them closely. How then can they enjoy the increased money without arousing suspicion?

Johnson Fernandez, one of the heroic Malaysian reporters, wrote in his exposé that the match-fixers were giving their players winning lottery tickets. The match-fixers would buy the tickets from the winners, and then give the tickets to the players who had fixed the matches so that they could claim that the money had been won legitimately. Some of the interview subjects claimed that another way was for the players to be given their own bets on the gambling market. This had a twofold advantage: it increased their payout and it guaranteed their co-operation with the fix. However, most payments to corrupt players in gambling fixes are still relatively unsophisticated cash payments.

Generally, the gambling match-fixers have two stages in making these payments to players. The first is an advance, or “coffee and shop- ping money” paid before the game. This payment really settles the deal and shows that the player will take part in fixing the match. However, the main payment is reserved for after the game, when the player has successfully performed the job. The place of payment is almost always a neutral location away from the soccer world—a disco or restaurant. Here is an example from one of the Malaysian players in his confession to the police:

A few weeks after that [the fixed match] Lee (*) phoned me. He made an appointment to see me at the Shell station in Ipoh. He wanted to pay me the money for the game against Singapore. I went straight there. I met Lee and his wife there. Lee told me to follow behind. We went to an industrial area. We spoke through the car windows. Lee gave me a restaurant menu, inside the menu was 15,000 Malaysian ringgit. Then I drove away. In the afternoon, I returned the menu, without the money in it.

There is another form of payment that successful, long-term match-fixers ensure is paid to the player—the psychological one. The match-fixers try to ensure a long-term relationship with corrupt players. It may no longer be friendly, but it does need to be maintained in good account. Often players do not feel particularly good about underperforming in matches. So match-fixers will provide them with “gifts” along with the payment. Frequently, these gifts are women. Rafiq Saad took part in a number of fixed matches for the match-fixer Chieu. One in particular was against the Singapore team in Singapore in front of 50,000 fans. Because of cultural rivalries, it is very difficult for a Malaysian player to lose to Singapore and to lose in front of 50,000 fans is very difficult. In Saad’s confession, he talks about the match-fixer providing the corrupt players with women:

On the XX in Singapore, we lost. I did not play all out. I went back to the hotel. The same night … Chieu had supplied four high-class prostitutes for four players …

Here, it is the players who were “paid” with women. Other times, it is the ones who were supposed to be the most honest and upright—the referees of some of the biggest soccer games in the world.

Names marked with (*) have been changed.

Read The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime by Declan Hill.

 

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