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

match-fixing:

THE GOALKEEPER IS THE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: ”You never can do

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

included.

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

prey.

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.