Copa Centroamericana

Match-fixers tried to get to Belize players before game with U.S.

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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.

Panama rounds out 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup field

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There was surprisingly little drama in Friday’s fifth place match at the Copa Centroamericana in Costa Rica. Panama, in the battle of two winless (and undefeated) teams, took a 1-0 lead into half time against Guatemala, striker Blas Pérez putting the Hex qualifiers up after 28 minute.

With the final spot in this year’s Gold Cup on the line, you expected more fight from the Guatemalans, but that never happened. Early second half goals from Alcibíades Rojas and Alberto Quintero gave los Canaleros an insurmountable lead, Minor López’s late goal unable to save face for Guatemala. Panama won, 3-1.

The result left one 2011 Gold Cup qualifier out of this year’s tournament while Panama, so dangerous in the last version of CONCACAF’s championship, qualify for their fifth straight competition. They are the last team to book their place in this summer’s tournament:

Qualifiers

North American zone:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • United States

Caribbean zone:

  • Cuba
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Haiti
  • Martinique

Central American zone:

  • Costa Rica
  • Honduras
  • Belize
  • El Salvador
  • Panama

Jamaica is the only team in the final round of World Cup qualifying who failed to make this summer’s Gold Cup. Belize, Haiti, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago make this year’s tournament after failing to qualifying in 2011 while Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Jamaica fail to return.

While no schedule (or groupings) is set, the competition is scheduled to begin on July 7, with the venues for this year’s tournament announced on Wednesday.

Mexico and the United States are always favorites to make the final, but Gold Cups in the middle of World Cup qualifying tournaments can be a little less predictable. In 2009, Mexico needed penalty kicks in the semifinal to advance past Costa Rica (before defeating the U.S. 5-0 in the final). In 2005, Panama made their only final appearance before losing to the United States.