The emergence of allegations that Belize players were offered money to throw a Gold Cup match has been taken lightly in the United States. But the fact that the Central Americans were already massive underdogs should not detract from the seriousness of these accusations.
Nobody expected anything other than a comfortable home victory for the Americans in the Group C clash. And so it proved: The USMNT ran out easy 6-1 winners, proving their superiority on a continental level.
The real bombshell emerged after the match. Local station 7 News Belize ran a story quoting several Jaguar players, who assured they were offered significant amounts of money to "throw" the game.
Said midfielder Andres Makin Jr.:
The man asked me a lot of questions and the man asked me how much money I made in Belize and I told him we make a certain amount of money. Then he told me that that isn't any kind of money and he kept asking questions and questions and only about money he was talking about and that is when he pulled 'Yolo' aside and told him that he didn't want to talk to me only to Yolo and Woodrow.
Makin went on to describe how an individual of unknown nationality approached the team offering up to $10,000 (according to Pro Soccer Talk) to keep quiet about the attempt to fix the match.
CONCACAF confirmed (according to ESPN) that two Belize players, Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair, were offered bribes to fix the match against the U.S. two days prior to the match. Both players reported the incident to CONCACAF, and the person responsible for the attempted bribes has been identified.
Responses from the U.S. media have been extremely low-key. On the one hand, this is not surprising. The United States were overwhelming favourites to win on Tuesday evening; the fact that someone would go to the trouble and expense to try to bribe Belize is bizarre, almost comical.
But match-fixing is no laughing matter. In the same week as the Belize scandal broke, another story of foul play appeared in Nigeria. In the country's lowest professional division, according to Eurosport, four teams were suspended after two games finished with the frankly ridiculous scores of 79-0 and 67-0.
Again, the exaggerated scale of the wrongdoing—Nigerian authorities are now investigating—invites derision rather than concern. But the fact that clubs are breaking the rules to such an extreme extent demonstrates how serious a problem this is.
Credit should be given to the Belize side for turning down what for much of the team would have been the biggest payday of their career. But their virtuousness does not hide the fact that unscrupulous individuals are apparently systematically trying to influence results with briefcases full of dollar bills.
This latest case may not shake the football world in the same manner as Calciopoli in 2006, which exposed the connivance of several top Italian teams, including Juventus, in the selection and influencing of referees. Nor the subsequent Scommessopoli, which implicated the likes of Antonio Conte in a gambling scandal.
But the Gold Cup scandal, even if it has been ignored by large sections of the press, shows that despite those landmark cases and others, football is still susceptible to outside interference. Belize's example should serve as another wake-up call to teams across the world that the scourge of match-fixing is still very much present in the beautiful game.
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