Soccer faces epic fight against match-fixing

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“The referees always knew what was going on,” he said.

Tainted referees also are believed to be at the heart of one or more games involving South Africa in 2010, with a FIFA report in December finding “compelling evidence” of match-fixing.

In 2011, two friendly matches in the Turkish beach resort of Antalya _ one between Bolivia and Latvia, the other between Bulgaria and Estonia _ appeared suspicious when all seven goals came from penalty kicks awarded by referees. The German magazine Stern later reported that $6.9 million was wagered on the Bulgarian game alone.

FIFA banned the six eastern European officials involved in those games for life.

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Officials who govern the sport can’t stop match-fixing by themselves and need the cooperation of law enforcement bodies and governments across borders, said Schenk of Transparency International.

Noble, the Interpol chief, agreed.

“It’s definitely beyond and above the world of sport, above and beyond FIFA,” he said. “It’s fair to say we haven’t caught up to the scale of the problem.”

During the 2010 World Cup, police in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand arrested more than 5,000 people in Interpol-organized raids on nearly 800 illegal gambling dens. Interpol organized other raids in 2011 and 2012, but does not make arrests or conduct national investigations itself.

Schenk and the players’ union say soccer authorities must also make sure their own ranks are free of corruption. One World Cup ticket scandal was linked to the family of a senior FIFA vice president while the former head of Zimbabwe’s soccer federation is accused in a corruption scam.

“There is a strong link between good governance in the bodies that run sports and the sport organizations’ credibility in the fight against match-fixing,” Schenk wrote in a commentary. “Unless sport organizations are accountable and transparent, they will not have the authority to tackle the problem.”

Both Schenk and FIFA chief Blatter say whistleblowers must also be protected better.

In 2011, Italian defender Simone Farina turned down a fixer’s offer of $261,500 to throw a game and reported it to police, setting off an investigation that led to scores of arrests. Despite being honored by FIFA, he found himself shunned by many in Italy who considered him a snitch.

“I said no because my immediate thoughts were of my wife, son and daughter,” Farina said. “How could I look them in the eye if I said yes? What kind of husband and father would I be?”

Cizmek _ the Croatian player who said he took $26,100 but handed back all but about $650 to police _ says his scars from match-fixing will last a lifetime.

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