Do we have another match-fixing scandal on our hands?
In an interview published by German news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday, award-winning Canadian journalist Declan Hill gave accounts that detail the manipulation of Ghanaian matches in the 2006 World Cup, most notably the second round match between Ghana and Brazil, which was won 3-0 by Brazil.
Hill’s interview included accounts of multiple meetings with an Asian man who was reportedly a key member of a syndicate that manipulated the result of football matches. He was present at a meeting where the Asian man, referred to as Lee Chin, met with an Ghanaian runner to arrange the bribing, along with the sums of money involved and how many players were said to be involved.
The claims in the interview are just a small part of what Hill unearths in his book, The Fix, which was published in Germany on Tuesday.
In the interview, Hill doesn’t say definitively that the matches were fixed, but he does say that Chin told him that the Ghanaian middleman had received the consent of eight Ghana players to manipulate the results of World Cup matches for $30,000 per player per game, and that Chin called him shortly before Ghana’s tie against Brazil to let him know that the fix was on and that Ghana would lose by at least two goals.
If you would like to read the interview, you can here. The interview was actually taken down for a little while after I’d read it on Tuesday, and it was put back up on Wednesday with some changes to it with an editor’s note that said that some inaccuracies had been corrected, corrections that may have been tied in with Hill’s comments that he was misquoted.
Misquoted or not, Hill’s supposed claims haven’t gone over very well, as the Ghanaian FA is planning to sue Hill for, as per a GFA statement, “publishing defamatory statements about the Ghanaian FA and their players.”
On top of that, the man that Hill mentioned as the go-between involved in getting the fix on, Abukari Damba, has come out to proclaim his innocence, though he says he met Hill twice in Accra when Hill was looking for a ticket to a 2008 African Cup of Nations quarterfinal between Ghana and Nigeria.
So, how believable are Hill’s accusations/claims/suspicions?
Hill’s putting his reputation, and perhaps even his life, on the line with his book, and with that in mind, you’d have to pay some mind to what he’s saying, even if the tone of some of his comments is more suspicious and not as clear-cut accusatory.
Knowing that he’s under pressure to present some hardcore evidence, he’s posted a message on the book’s website stating that he’s working to get more information up, and an interview with Ghanaian star Stephen Appiah, where Appiah discusses Damba, being offered and taking money in order to win games, and more, has been put up, with both audio and written transcripts.
Speaking of Damba, he was involved in another match-fixing issue involving a Ghana-Iran friendly in 2007, when he was accused by some players of offering them $6,000 to throw the game in Tehran, a match that Ghana lost 4-2.
While Damba proclaims his innocence about that and the new claim, he was sacked from his position as a coach, and in the interview with Der Spiegel, Hill actually says that Damba not only confessed in a hearing about the Iran friendly that he received money for arranging meetings, but also that Damba told him in one of their meetings that he had put Lee Chin in contact with Ghanaian players at the World Cup, including Appiah.
As for the players, you’d like to think that they wouldn’t let financial benefit affect their performance, one way or another, but as is backed up by the Appiah interview, the money men are just as willing to reward the players for winning certain games, not just for losing. Greed can be a factor, but so can trying to take care of your loved ones, and when you have a chance to earn a little extra money on the side, such an opportunity can be pretty appealing.
And given how match-fixing and bribing has been in the news far too much in recent times in other sports, the accusations are certainly going to create at least a little ripple, and it certainly has.
But, you do have to question just how much credence there is to his comments, because suspicion isn’t always truth. That’s the approach that FIFA is taking, as Sepp Blatter says no investigation will be made into Hill’s comments. In fact, Hill says in the interview that he met Blatter to discuss what he knew and that he dismissed the claims as he’s doing now.
Do you think that Hill’s suspicions are justified, or do you think he’s going out on a limb that’s going to break in order to gain publicity for his new book?