As Jon Arnold pointed out on Twitter, it’s a bit strange it took us in North America two days to catch on to this story. We’re usually so sensitive about match-fixing, yet news Belize internationals were offered money to lose Tuesday’s game against the United States just started garnering attention today. That anybody would pay Belize to assure a result that was almost pre-destined is beside the point (though an interesting point in its own right). Any type of match-fixing usually sends the engines screaming out of the station.
This time, though, it didn’t. At least, not when the allegations were picked up by Belizean news on Monday. From what appears to be a transcript of 7 News’ on air report:
Fourth, the biggest news coming out of Portland is that an attempt has been made to try and involve Belizean Players Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair in Match fixing – that is he try to get them to throw the game so the US would win. The man first met them in Guatemala, attempted to befriend them – and then called them again in Portland – where he met them at a mall near to the hotel …
From Belize international Ian Gaynair, speaking on camera to News 7:
He started talking that we don’t really stand a chance to beat the U.S so he wanted us to promise him that we would lose the game and that he would give us a large amount of money to change our lives in Belize and to help our families … He saw that my features changed and he saw that we weren’t into it so he got frightened and took out a large amount of money to bribe us, a lot of hundred and fifty dollar bills and threw it at us on the table and told us to keep it and to not say anything and to keep the money. Like I told him, ‘we can’t take that money’ …
So it didn’t happen with Belize, the man eventually frantically offering players $10,000 (or, euros) to keep quiet. Still this is how match-fixing goes down, in general: Find players who have financial incentive to guarantee results, bring them into the system, then you have them hooked. Because once a player’s complicit in one instance of match-fixing or involvement in a greater scheme, gamblers forever have something to hold over them.
Although giving Belizean players money to “throw” a match to the U.S. seems pretty silly, it gets them in the game. What about the Cuba match to conclude group play, one that would allow gamblers to get better odds? Or in some Copa Centroamericana game? Or a World Cup qualifier next cycle? Once you’re in, gamblers always have something to hold over you, a type of penultimate “or else”.
So while this instance seems to have been initiated by the Fredo Corleone of match-fixers, the Belize players still dodged a bullet. A poorly-aimed, figurative, but potentially career-ending bullet.