Gold Cup marred by match-fixing attempt: report
Belizian players claim fixer tried to pay them to throw match
Match-fixing has reared its ugly head once again at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, according to a report.
Players on the Belizian national soccer team have come forward and told a television outlet that they had been approached to fix Tuesday's match against the United States at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore.
Andres Makin Jr., Ian Gaynair and Woodrow West said they were approached by an unidentified man, who offered them large sums of money in exchange for losing to the heavily favoured Americans.
Despite losing 6-1, the four national team selections claimed to rebuff the attempt to manipulate the outcome.
"He [the fixer] 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," Gaynair told 7 News Belize. "I felt really uncomfortable just to be around the guy because I was already aware about the 'match fixing' and I know that I could get banned for life.
"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."
'I stood firm'
West, the Belize goaltender, related a similar story.
"I made him understand that we're not into taking money from him or anything like that and we're here for our country," West said. "We are Belizeans and that is what we're doing out here -- to represent our country and, to me, Woodrow West, and being loyal to my country -- that [is] bigger than any amount of money that they can ever give me and that is why I stood firm."
It is not the first time in recent memory that the Gold Cup has been plagued by match-fixing allegations. In 2011, German magazine Der Spiegel revealed three games from that summer's Gold Cup in the U.S. were being investigated by FIFA for alleged manipulation. At the time, former CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, who faced fraud allegations himself earlier this year, denied any wrongdoing at the Gold Cup in 2011, declaring there was no evidence.
In December of 2011, FIFA reaffirmed it had received information that suggested games had been manipulated and, while they did not name which games had been targeted, it did confirm an ongoing investigation. It left a black mark on the tournament and resulted in CONCACAF, ahead of this year's Gold Cup, promising to ensure there would be no future fixing.
Earlier this year, however, ESPN, as part of a story on the wide-reaching effects match-fixing is having on the global game of soccer, reported that a "prolific fixer" had bragged that he had already arranged to rig the entirety of the 2013 Gold Cup.
'Happy the players came forward'
CONCACAF has yet to release a statement on the Belize report. When asked if Canadian players had been approached by fixers or if they had been offered any bribes at this Gold Cup, the Canadian Soccer Association declined to comment.
Belize soccer federation president Ruperto Vicente did comment and commended the players for their actions.
"I'm happy that the players came forward and made the report when they were approached," he said. "This happens as a result of what happened right before the players left Belize.
"When people like this find that the players are clamoring for monies, they become targets for people who are involved in match fixing. Belize then has become a target because they realize we are a poor federation.
"We're a federation that doesn't have money and who isn't paying the players a lot of money, so monies offered to players by match fixers is very attractive."