With the next World Cup starting in less than two weeks, a New York Times report reveals extensive efforts to fix matches in the run-up to the last tournament—some of which efforts, it seems, were successful. The Times highlights an investigation by FIFA, the organization in charge of international soccer; the probe found attempts to fix 15 exhibition matches ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. One of those matches was a US victory against Australia, though it doesn't appear that fixers succeeded in that case.
At the center of the claims is a Singapore company called Football 4U, a front for a match-fixing organization, according to the FIFA report. That company tried to get referees of its choice on the field; in some cases, it succeeded. South Africa's soccer federation signed contracts with the group, one of whose executives, Wilson Raj Perumal, may have masterminded the whole operation, FIFA says. Among the highlights of the Times report:
- According to Perumal's memoir, he paid referee Ibrahim Chaibou $60,000 to fix a match between South Africa and Guatemala that resulted in a lopsided South African victory. The game involved multiple bizarre referee calls.
- In another game, a South African soccer official locked Chaibou in a refs' dressing room after he attempted to take charge of another game, the official says.
- After that game, the head of refereeing in South Africa in 2010 received a call from Perumal: "This time, you really have gone too far and, you know, we’re going to eliminate you," Perumal said, according to the official.
- After a 2011 arrest, Perumal was found guilty of corruption. He was arrested again last month. FIFA says it is continuing to investigate the situation in South Africa, but a number of national soccer federations could be targets for future match-fixing, the Times notes. Click for the full piece.