Soccer fans express anger over betting scandal
Michael Bauer | Collegio writer
st popular sport in the world, but now it is tarnished by one of the biggest sports scandals in history.
On Monday, Feb. 4, a European investigative firm known as Europol reported that an Asia-based crime syndicate had fixed a total of 380 soccer matches. These games included club matches and qualifiers for the world’s biggest competition, the World Cup.
About $21.7 million had been bet on matches by criminals, yielding a $10.8 million profit, with bribes being shelled out to the referees to throw games.
For those who do not follow soccer, this crisis is comparable to other sporting controversies seen in the United States such as the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series in a similar betting scandal.
For soccer’s world governing body, known as FIFA, the scandal joins the laundry list of other crises in the sport.
In 2010, Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, but an investigation has been in progress after reports of bribing FIFA voters were revealed. In 2006 Italy’s “Caliopoli” scandal showed selected soccer clubs bribed referees to call the games in their favor. The sport has seen cleaner days.
But for some PSU students, those days could not come soon enough.
“It’s not good on the sport of soccer,” said Matt Simpson. Since soccer is still trying to make an impact in the United States, he says this can tarnish the game’s image.
“Because we are building the sport over here, it is not good to hear news like that,” Simpson said.
For other students, the pain of hearing this went even deeper.
Andre’ Souza, a former exchange student from Brazil, has been feeling insecure about FIFA.
“My reaction upon hearing the soccer match-fixing was a mixed feeling of deception and revolt,” Souza said.
Eric Schwartz says he was surprised by the allegations.
“When I first heard of it, I was disappointed. I thought it was a clean sport,” said Schwartz. Schwartz is the former president of the soccer club at Pitt State. “If it went on the World Cup stage, that would be horrible because the World Cup is the biggest stage in the world.”
No official World Cup match was fixed. But a couple of qualifying games were found to have been tainted by bribery with some involving Costa Rica. The United States was not involved in or affected by any match fixes.
Considering FIFA’s recent troubles with bribing allegations, it came as no surprise to some when the news broke. But Simpson says bribery is not limited to soccer.
“Definitely not,” said Simpson. “I think there’s betting in other sports.”
Supporters have begun to question why a soccer game would be thrown for the sake of betting.
“The best part of a soccer game is that it is a very unpredictable sport,” Souza said. “Theoretically, any team has the chance to win.”
While it is unclear if any FIFA officials were involved with the bribery, some fans could start to turn away from the sport if justice isn’t served.
“I believe that even some FIFA members could be involved in some of these cases,” Souza said. “Thus, if FIFA does not act effectively and clearly on this scandal, I am going to start changing my mind about the sport.”
Tough words from a person whose home country has won five World Cups – the most in the world.
“As a fanatic soccer fan, I could not believe when I watched the video containing FIFA’s revelations about match fixing all over the world,” Souza said.
Soccer has been known as a “beautiful game” over the years. But fans are starting to think the game’s image has been tarnished.
“For me, soccer is above money and economic interests. It is passion and joy,” Souza said. “So it must be respected no matter where it is played as a professional sport.”