Three items of interest on this first week of the new year. (Having spent most of my life either in school, university or media, I always regard September as the New Year.)
The first story is about my colleague Aris Asvestas. Aris is a Greek investigative journalist. He was working on a number of stories involving match-fixing. Last week, two men waited outside his house and attacked him. He was taken to hospital. I have done a very small amount of journalism in Greece and the presence of organized crime in their football was genuinely frightening. Aris should be commended for having the bravery to take on these stories. I wish him well and salute his courage.
On to the relatively important story – but only if you live in my home and native country of Canada – the CBC TV will be presenting a documentary on match-fixing in the third tier Canadian Soccer League. It is mostly the work of the indefatigable Ben Rycroft. Ben is a friend and colleague who has been working on the story for over a year. Through the nature of television, he will get little mention on-screen, but really the documentary is his work and he should be congratulated.
One small point, a number of pals have contacted me about the press release, which boasts in its headline ‘CBC News exposes an international soccer-game-fixing scandal and its Canadian Connection.’ Look, we all know it is not true. I exposed the scandal over four years ago and the German police investigation that uncovered the Canadian connection was partly inspired by my book. Since that time scores of other journalists in many different countries have done superb work and exposed far more of the story. As for the angle of the CSL fixing that was published over a year ago. Again, I, and many other journalists have already publicly spoken and written about this issue.
So what happened to produce such a false claim? The CBC has done good work, but what happens is that the PR stuff gets assembled by publicity people who come in late and have little knowledge of the actual story. They tend to write the most sensational thing they can get away with. I am pretty sure that the actual journalists had little to do with such an untrue statement.
On to the extremely important story:
Richard Kingson, the former Ghana World Cup goalkeeper, finally admitted in public that he had been approached by fixers during the 2006 World Cup. I stress – in public – because some of the Black Stars have spoken privately about what actually occurred at the tournament. However, Kingson is the first to go public about some of the events around that the tournament and the fact that the fixers were approaching the team. (He refused all bribes). Kingson made this announcement at church service in Nigeria. Why is this important? Because FIFA and some of their tame pals in sports journalism have been frantically trying to pretend the story of match-fixing only relates to relatively unimportant games in relatively minor leagues like the Greek or Canadian. This simply is not true – the fixers have been working for years at almost every major level of soccer including the Olympics and the World Cup. Until we get a proper investigation into their activities expect them to carry on – despite the courage and hard work shown by men like Aris Asvestas and Ben Rycroft.