When we last checked in with soccer at The Inside Mag, it was a teary-eyed celebration of the implausible Man City triumph in the waning seconds of the Premiere League championship. The only thing that could have possibly eclipsed the sheer weight and scope of that article was perhaps Al Michael’s legendary call, “Do you believe in miracles? Aye!!” Indeed, that prosaic and incredibly well written piece of faux-journalism was not only a Tom Wolfeian recap of Earth-shattering proportions, but also a begrudging admittance of the legitimate excitement that Soccerfan had always claimed to be present in the “beautiful game.” For anyone savvy enough to take the point, the implications were that soccer might finally be gaining a real foothold within the American sports consciousness. What a difference a year makes.
February of 2013 finds the U.S. National Team succumbing to bicycle-style fatality at the hands of Honduras, prompting that nation to rightly lose their proverbial shit, and soccer pundit to question the very real possibility that the USA might miss the World Cup entirely (as opposed to feebly bowing out in the group stage). Still, this shocking change of fortunes for our once proud national team (?) is not even close to the scourge that threatens to rip apart the very fabric of the greatest, purest game on the globe. Nope, it is not diving in the box. Nor is it riots, hooliganism, faux-hawk-mullets, or the lack of commercial time for corporate sponsors. It is the simple fact that soccer is, apparently, not all that much different from Professional Wrestling. As it turns out, soccer is fixed.
Much like boxing, Auction Kings, the Oscars, and presidential elections before it, the gambling outcome of any particular soccer match is predetermined—by the Singapore mafia—allegedly.
According to ESPN, soccer match fixing has become such a huge problem globally that it is “on par with drug trafficking, prostitution and the trade in illegal weapons”. The cast of underworld characters that has emerged in this story reads like my favorite Guy Ritchie movie. Amidst a network of high rollers, crooks, and Mafioso thugs, we’ve got Wilson Raj Perumal, the flamboyant fixer extraordinaire, whose vice for gambling millions of dollars on unfixed sports has landed him in debt to the big boss Dan Tan. A $300,000 bounty is on the table just to go sit on a Hungarian roof with a sniper and identify Perumal, who is under protective custody in Hungary. No word on how much the triggerman gets. Get the popcorn!
On ESPN’s Behind The Bets podcast, an expert guest attributed much of the match fixing as limited to Asian markets, a byproduct of the overwhelming range and availability of pro soccer leagues that one can wager on, and the kind of “prop” bets that do not “necessarily” affect the outcome of any game, but rather predict things like how many (gasp!) red cards will occur in the game, how many corner kicks take place, or how many times the English announcer will decry “what a brilliant cracker!”
That gamblerific disclaimer, however, did not stop Europol from questioning the validity of nearly 700 matches between 2008 and 2011, including World Cup, Euro Cup, and Champion’s League matches. While the Cup tourney matches may have been merely “qualifiers”,
these are clearly not some fly-by-night leagues like say, MLS, but rather the apex levels of the sport.A lack of practicality and oversight notwithstanding, this corruption and tampering is an extension of the fraud that plagues the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Evidently, the pieces to properly fix a match are easily acquired, thanks to the sheer number of leagues and clubs, and fixers can include players, referees, coaches, and team officials.
According to Europol, Asian organized crime syndicates have profited to the tune of nearly 11 million dollars since 2008, but that is merely what is traceable in the murky world and liquid world of black-market gambling. Following the known US rule of “the Border Patrol stops less than 5% of all drugs entering the country” we can safely assume that this figure has to be at least $100 million+, and that the number of staged outcomes must be in the tens of thousands, stretching all the way back to the mid 90s.
Coming on the heels of Lance Armstrong, the latest crop of MLB PED revelations, and Ray Lewis’ Deer Antler Spraygate (admittedly happy about that one), it is becoming essentially impossible for any intelligent fan to believe in the basic sanctity of nearly any pro sporting competition. As it turns out, sports are just as fake and vapid a money-grab as everything else in this plastic culture. No wonder then that we mirror this reality in our own selfish and increasingly dull microcosm that our various fantasy teams represent.
One of the tenets that this site was founded on was the ironic premise that watching sports is better than playing sports. While the opinions of this writer are in no way indicative of the The Inside Mag, I now advocate the enjoyment of sport on a purely participatory and local level. Do: Join a soccer league. Run a 10k. Play catch with your kid. Do a season of dynasty mode on NBA 2K13. Hone your ping-pong skills. Don’t: Treat sports like a religion. Bet on how many corner kicks are going to happen. Watch soccer.
The only caveat that I can think of for that stance is that at least American sports stars ostensibly manipulate every back-alley loophole and crackerjack doctor to cheat not only for the scrilla, but also to win the actual game, which is more than I can say for this soccer scandal (oppressive circumstances and crushing poverty notwithstanding). In summation, and to quote Grantland’s Brian Phillips, whose article only narrowly misses the greatness and reach of my own, “Soccer. Is. Fucked.”
See you next year!
Bold prediction for 2014: It is revealed that Messi’s rampant HGH use leads not only to“messianic” goal scoring, but also stunted growth.
Previous articles by Vincent Narducci
- Beyonce, Bonds, Armstrong: The Performance Enhancement Double Standard
- Armstrong, Cabrera, Colon: Living Wrong in the Modern Sports World
- A Place Where Assholes Finish First
- Jose Fernandez: The Best Untold Story in Baseball
- Believe The Hype: Angel's Trout Having Historic Season
- The Inside Mag's First Annual Tennis Article
- Controversy, Corruption and Cheating
- The Inside Mag's First Annual Soccer Article
- Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Cole Hamels
- Philip Humber Paints His Masterpiece