Football referees arrested

  • 2011-08-17
  • By Jared Grellet

SUSPICIOUS OUTCOMES: FIFA got tough, throwing out for good the 6 referees caught in a point-fixing scam.

RIGA - The fallout continues from Latvia’s and Estonia’s February football friendlies, with football’s ruling body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), banning all six referees involved in the fixtures from participating in any further football related activities in any capacity for life.
Hungarians Kolos Lengyel, Krisztian Selmeczi and Janos Csak – who, according to reports, remain in police custody in their home country as a consequence of their role in the matches – along with Bosnians Sinisa Zrnic, Kenan Bajramovic and Rizah Ridalovic, were last week found guilty at a FIFA hearing of their roles in fixing two friendly football games involving Estonia and Latvia in February.

Back on Feb. 9, Latvia and Estonia both participated in friendly football matches against Bolivia and Bulgaria, respectively, in the neutral venue of Antalya, Turkey. The games, organized through a shady Singaporean sports agency, Footy Media International, aroused heavy suspicion when a flurry of bets were placed on the option for three or more goals to be scored in each of the games. Given the teams involved, the fact that only one of the games was televised and that approximately only 200 people were in attendance, the suspicion was not without reason.
That suspicion was seemly justified when Latvia beat Bolivia 2-1, and Estonia drew 2-2 with Bulgaria with all goals across both games coming from the penalty spot. When one kick from the spot initially missed, the player was even allowed to retake the kick.

Subsequently, FIFA called for a full-on investigation into the games with the services of INTERPOL also called upon to assist in the investigation.
The four teams involved in the matches were quick to distance themselves from the investigation, with both the Latvian and Estonian football federations claiming that they had been extremely suspicious of the results. Estonian football federation spokesman Mihkel Uibohlet went as far as to tell local media that he had been alerted to possible manipulation in the fixture ahead of kick-off. In the meantime, his Latvian counterpart, Martins Hartmanis, stated that the match officials were not even who he had been led to believe, having being told prior to the match that the officials would be from the Czech Republic. The three Bosnian referees – who continue to claim their innocence – had been responsible for officiating the Latvia-Bolivia fixture.
Amongst growing criticism about their attitude to match fixing, the two games have now become a catalyst for FIFA, who are attempting to show a tougher attitude towards corruption in football with these two matches considered to only be the tip of the match-fixing iceberg.

It has not just been the match officials who have come under intense scrutiny, but also a number of individuals whom different quarters of the media have also speculated as being involved in the scandal.
Footy Media International has been alleged as being nothing more than a front for match fixing, with Singaporean businessman Anthony Santia Raj cited as being personally responsible for organizing the matches in Antalya. British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, went as far as questioning if the company, in reality, ever actually existed or was nothing more than false addresses, e-mails and a fancy Web site. Raj was also reported as working with a Singaporean accomplice, Wilson Radz Perumal.

Russian national Sergey Protsenko has also aroused suspicion for acting as an intermediary for the matches, while Hungarian former professional footballer Zoltan Kenessey has been arrested in his native country on charges allegedly relating to his role in the match fixing scandal.