I've been away from the blog for a bit too long. That's life.
So today, Day One of a little project I'm going to undertake, where I post on the blog for 31 straight days. So dear reader, stick with me.
Today's big news, besides the ongoing transfer talk and the huge acquisition of Manchester City by a United Arab Emirates business group concerns the accusation of match-fixing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
According to German weekly news magazine Der Speigel, the 2006 World Cup knock-out stage match between Brazil and Ghana was influenced by an Asian betting syndicate. What do we mean by influenced?
The magazine reports large sums of money had been bet on Brazil winning by at least two goals and a former Ghana international acted as an intermediary.
Ghana lost the last 16 round match 3-0 in Dortmund on June 27, 2006 which put Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to finalists France.
The information in Der Spiegel comes from Canadian investigative journalist Declan Hill, whose book about betting on sport around the world is published in German on Tuesday.
Der Spiegel also claim their investigations show two matches in Germany come under suspicion after huge sums were placed on them by a Malaysian who has been convicted of attempted match-fixing.
According to the report, William Bee Wah Lim placed 2.8 million euros ($4.1 million US dollars) with Asian bookmakers on Kaiserslautern losing a first-division match at Hanover in November 2005.
As a result of Hanover's 5-1 victory, he won 2.2 million euros.
Lim placed almost 4 million euros on Karlsruhe beating Sportfreunde Siegen in a second-division match in August 2005. Karlsruhe won the game 2-0.
A Frankfurt court gave Lim a two years and five months prison sentence in June 2007 after he was convicted of attempted match fixing in the German regional league and Austria's first division.
He was released on conditional bail, but has since left the country and a warrant for his arrest was issued in January.
The German Football Federation (DFB) have said they will investigate Der Spiegel's allegations concerning the two Bundesliga games in 2005.
"DFB and the German League have so far no reference points that the matches mentioned are to have been manipulated," said a statement on the DFB website.
"Immediately after becoming known of the suspicious factors DFB president Dr. Theo Zwanziger and German League president Dr. Reinhard Rauball affirm both federations aim at a comprehensive clearing-up of the affair.
"Already on Saturday morning an inquiry was started to look into the games concerned."
German football endured the most serious crisis in its history in 2004 when referee Robert Hoyzer admitted having received 70,000 euros to influence the results of 23 matches, mainly second and third division games, between April 10 and December 3, 2004.
MY POV: This would be absolutely devastating news. No one wants to see professional football turned into professional wrestling, especially at an event as big as the World Cup.
If this story is true, all the work FIFA's undertaken to prevent this very situation will be for naught. An immediate inquiry needs to be undertaken, much like Germany's doing, to make sure world football isn't polluted by gambling syndicates.
I found this excellent interview on Der Speigel's website with the author of the book, Declan Hill. Here's the whole interview. I've included a small excerpt. It's a riveting account of Hill's attempts to track down the characters involved in the scandal. It reads like a James Bond 007 spy thriller.
SPIEGEL: You have spent three years investigating the international betting mafia. Have you lost all pleasure in football?
Declan Hill: I love football the way one loves a woman, but by now I ask myself quite early on in a match, whether there is anything suspicious going on. There are no precise statistics about betting manipulation in football, of course, but it is shocking how often people in the world of betting talk about matches that have been manipulated – not just in Asia or Eastern Europe, but also in the major football leagues, such as in Germany, and even during world championships.
SPIEGEL: On June 27, 2006 the match ended 3:0 for Brazil.
Hill: The Ghanaians played as though they were putting their whole heart into it, but then there were a number of stupid mistakes: passes didn’t succeed, the defense was careless, the team collected three stupid goals. After the game I was in the stands in Dortmund with tears in my eyes because I was convinced, at least emotionally, that the match had been fixed. I phoned Chin from the stadium: “I didn’t believe you, but you are a genius.” He said: “How can I be a genius if I earn so little money with this?”
SPIEGEL: Did you speak with (Ghana Captain Steven) Appiah about the accusations?
Hill: Not just with Appiah, but also with the goalkeeper Richard Kingson and other national players too. They all assured me that they were completely unaware of the manipulation of the team in Germany. However one of the players did admit that he had been approached by Asian betters in 2004 during the Olympic Games. And they all said that Appiah was the captain of the team and that you would have to talk to him. I then met with him in an industrial area in Accra. We talked in his car and he said that he had been approached a number of times in the course of his career and that he had taken money too. The first time was in 1997 during the under-17s World Cup in Malaysia and also in 2004 at the Olympic Games in Athens; however he had been given money in order to win games, not to lose them. He had then shared the bonus among the players.
SPIEGEL: Ghana’s team captain, who was until recently signed to Fenerbahce Istanbul, says that he has accepted money from third parties twice during his career?
Hill: That’s exactly what he says. I had trouble comprehending this, so I spoke to him again over the phone, and he repeated his account.
SPIEGEL: And during the 2006 World Cup in Germany?
Hill: He was approached there too, but he says that he refused. I also asked him whether the Malaysian had gone to other players too. He replied: “Yes, I think he did the rounds.”