The World Cup kicks off in less than two weeks, with hosts Brazil taking on Croatia in São Paulo. But as the world gears up for this huge event, a shadow is falling.
The New York Times conducted an in-depth investigation regarding match-fixing ahead of the last tournament, held in South Africa in 2010. Part One, already an intensive look, was published on Saturday, and the full article is worth your time and attention.
In Part One, called “Rigging,” Declan Hill, author of The Fix, teamed up with Jeré Longman, longtime sports reporter for the NYT, to tell the story of the manipulation of at least five matches in South Africa, played out prior to the country hosting the World Cup. They outline the ease in which a company from Singapore, a well-known front for a match-fixing ring, were able to control match outcomes to produce desired results.
The matches detailed in the report were friendlies, arranged both to raise money for the hosts and provide a World Cup warmup for South Africa. But that’s not to say significant games, such as those set to be played in Brazil in two weeks, can’t be affected. Ralf Mutschke, now FIFA’s head of security, admitted that World Cup games are at risk for match-fixing:
The fixers are trying to look for football matches which are generating a huge betting volume, and obviously, international football tournaments such as the World Cup are generating these kinds of huge volumes. Therefore, the World Cup in general has a certain risk.
Games particularly vulnerable to match-fixing are those involving cash-strapped soccer federations, particularly those that lack much administrative oversight. It’s certainly feasible to think that certain teams playing in Brazil may be targeted by betting syndicates looking to get even richer off the World Cup games.