Soccer match-fixers choose their targets carefully

Mario Cizmek was convicted of rigging games in Croatia’s first
division in 2010. At his trial and in subsequent interviews with
The Associated Press, he spoke about the ”unwritten rules” of

it without a goalie,” Cizmek said. When his team’s goalkeeper
refused to fix a game, Cizmek returned the money to the fixer and
called off the deal.

UNEVEN SPLIT: Players involved with the fix don’t get paid the
same. The goalkeeper gets the most money – about twice as much as
others – because his statistics suffer the most. Defenders get the
next-biggest share; midfielders get less; strikers often are not

CHOOSING THE TARGETS: Match-fixers look carefully at the roster
and decide which players can be bought off. Younger players can be
had for less money and are more easily manipulated. Older players
who fear that their careers are nearing an end may also be a
target. Any player who is known to be in financial trouble is easy

MORE IS BETTER: The more players involved, the better for the
fixers. Cizmek said he initially included six of his team’s 11
players on the field, but his handler soon increased the group to
eight. In some instances of match-fixing, the coach and other team
officials have been involved.

DON’T BE OBVIOUS: A bad team that intentionally loses sets off
fewer alarms with league officials than good teams losing games
they were expected to win. Cizmek’s team had lost so many games
legitimately in the first half of the season that losing six more
did not seem unusual. ”We looked so pathetic even before that that
I doubt anyone noticed any difference,” he said.

CHOOSE OPPONENTS WISELY: Match-fixers pick teams that are either
without hope or desperate not to fail, Cizmek said. His team was
going to be sent down to a lower division no matter how its final
games turned out, making it a prime target for fixers. Likewise,
one of his team’s opponents desperately needed a win to stay in a
top division, so having his team intentionally lose that match was
an easy decision that benefited both sides.

HOOKED FOR LIFE: Cizmek said he discovered that once a player
has rigged a game, he is trapped. The fixers have enough evidence
against the player to get him banned from soccer for life. Shame
and guilt will also keep the player quiet. The fixer can keep
escalating demands and decreasing the payouts until the player
quits, retires or is arrested. Some implicated in match-fixing have
even committed suicide.