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According to a report from German newspaper Der Spiegel, FIFA (soccer’s international governing body) is looking into suspicious betting patterns during several recent soccer matches. In particular, during a recent exhibition match between Nigeria and Argentina, more than $1.5 million was wagered in the final ten minutes of the game that Argentina would score an additional goal. While the betting is not inherently suspicious, Argentina does possess arguably the world’s greatest player; the fact that the goal was a penalty kick after time should have expired does increase scrutiny.
The German report also indicated that FIFA is investigating suspicious betting patterns during three matches in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is currently underway here in the United States; however, the investigation does not include the hosts. The investigation centers around high scoring games involving Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
It is perhaps overly optimistic to expect FIFA to uncover corruption in the annual $85 billion dollar match-fixing “industry” when reports of corruption within FIFA run rampant and FIFA has been accused of not adequately dealing with the corruption. Indeed, supporters of England’s 2018 World Cup bid and the United States’ 2022 World Cup bid would likely argue that an inconsequential penalty kick in the final minutes of a game (Argentina still lost the game 4-1) is not nearly as egregious as *possibly* awarding World Cups to the highest bidder.
The most infamous investigation of match fixing here in the United States is the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. While almost incomprehensible now, members of the Chicago White Sox intentionally gave the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. More recently, federal prosecutors charged San Diego State’s all-time leading scorer and assist-leader with match fixing.
- Paul Russell
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