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SOCCER OFTEN FINDS ITSELF IN A FIX.

Byline: SCOTT FRENCH SOCCER

There's a scandal -- involving alleged match-fixing, illegal betting and manipulation of referee assignments -- rampaging through Italian soccer, not that that's anything new.

This is, of course, the land of Machiavelli, and there is a deep history of scandal in Italian sports, business and politics. With the World Cup less than two weeks away, this one -- centered with Serie A champion Juventus and involving top officials within the league and at several clubs -- has hit like a nuclear bomb.

Prosecutors throughout the country are looking into allegations of corruption at every level of the sport, and heavy fines, jail time, club relegation and perhaps, for Juventus, the loss of two championships could be in the offing.

It would be shocking if it wasn't so common. There is alarming corruption within soccer. Consider, in the past year:

--German referee Robert Hoyzer was sentenced to two years and five months in prison for his role in a massive match-fixing campaign that primarily targeted lower-division games for the benefit of a Croatian gambling syndicate. Referee Dominik Marks and former Bundesliga player Steffen Karl also were convicted, and authorities have been looking into Bayer Leverkusen results as part of a tax-fraud case.

--Dutch prosecutors began looking into alleged match-fixing and bribery of players at three clubs -- ADO Den Haag, FC Utrecht and Willem II Tilburg.

--A referee admitted he accepted bribes to favor clubs in Brazilian matches. Edilson Pereira de Carvalho was charged with fraud and criminal association, and the 11 games he officiated were ordered replayed, a decision later vacated. The national championship, as a result, was claimed by two clubs.

--Five Belgian clubs and myriad players and officials were placed under investigation for match-fixing after an Internet betting site looked into one-sided wagering on a La Louviere-St. Truiden match last fall. Flemish network VRT reported that seven top-flight matches were fixed, and Olivier Suray, a former La Louviere player, admitted he fixed a match in Finland for a Chinese businessman.

--A Latvian newspaper reported that national team captain Vitalijs Astafjevs claimed players and team officials were offered money to throw a World Cup qualifier against Russia. The game ended 1-1, and Astafjevs denied he'd made any such claims, saying he'd only heard rumors of attempted bribery.

--Six Vietnamese players were accused of fixing a game against Myanmar at last year's Southeast Asian Games, and two of them apparently confessed to aiding bookmakers by beating Myanmar by just one goal. There also were allegations of match-fixing in domestic games.

--A former referee admitted he tried to bribe a referee to assure an America de Cali victory over Once Caldas in a Colombian semifinal. Drug cartels' involvement in the Colombian game has led to widespread violence and corruption.

--Sturm Graz coach Michael Petrovic and striker Bojan Filipovic were under investigation from Austria authorities for allegedly accepting bribes from a German gambling syndicate. Both denied wrongdoing.

--Ten referees and club officials were fined and banned for their roles in fixing the results of Czech club Synot -- now Slovacko -- in the 2003-04 season.

--Two former referees were fined for fixing a Slovakian match in 2003.

CAPTION(S):

9 photos, 3 boxes

Photo:

(1) Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been grilled about his gambling practices as prosecutors look into Italian soccer's mounting scandal.

Luigi Vasini/Associated Press

(2) no caption (book: ``Soccer Against the Enemy: How the World's Most Popular Sport Starts and Fuels Revolutions and Keeps Dictators in Power'')

(3) no caption (book: ``The Miracle of Castel di Sangro'')

(4) no caption (book: ``Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football'')

(5) no caption (book: ``Football in Sun and Shadow'')

(6) no caption (book: ``The Story of the World Cup'')

(7) no caption (book: ``Fever Pitch'')

(8) no caption (book: ``How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization'')

(9) no caption (book: ``The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup'')

Box:

(1) 32 TEAMS ... 32 PUBS?

(2) Sizzling reading for World Cup fans

(3) Etc.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 30, 2006
Words:664
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