It may surprise some of you out there but I do sometimes read books other than the type of books I read to Little Oz Kanka at bedtime.
Last week I was lucky to get sent an advance copy of "The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime" by investigative reporter Declan Hill. It is a book I would certainly recommend to all the kankas.
Some of you may have seen the main news story that came out a few days before the book was published concerning allegations that Ghana threw its last 16 World Cup match against Brazil in 2006. Hill is certain that Asian gambling fixers paid Ghana players to ensure that Brazil won by at least two goals.
It is a complicated story which can be read here.
Whilst a team throwing a World Cup match is certainly big news (and a rollicking good story as well as Hill travels around the world, meeting fixers, runners, players, prostitutes) in many ways it is other sections of the book that are of real interest.
In addition to a look at how betting on football matches works, basically the real money is to be made on predicting the "goal spread" i.e. a bet that Brazil would beat Ghana by two goals would have netted a lot more money than a simple bet that Brazil will win, Hill goes into exactly how do you rig a match and then how the players on the field "lose" a match but still appear to be trying their best.
Using examples from around the world, including a failed attempt by Sedat Peker trying to rig a match with Akcabaat Sebatspor, Hill shows that fixing is widespread, not just in Asia but throughout Europe.
One topic which Hill talks about and which pops up from time-to-time here in Turkey is the situation where a team offers another team a "bonus payment" in order to "motivate" them to play well. These stories normally come out near the end of the season when two or more teams are chasing the title. It is at this stage when a mid-table team might not give a damn as relegation has been avoided, as has any hope of a European spot.
In order to motivate that team to play well against a challenger for the title, its rival challengers may offer bonuses. I always thought it was as straight as that - a motivation payment. Hill says that the main reason is not to motivate but to ensure that the team isn't got at and doesn't throw the match.
The Ghana-Brazil controversy that Hill writes about has dominated news of the book's release but my favourite line is something that Hill puts into the book for "the public's right to know" concerning a claim that Hill's Asian fixer contact had heard that Equador were to throw there match against England at World Cup 2008 by at least two goals. In the end England only won by one goal.
"...some of (fixer Chin's) associates had contacts with a few players on the Ecuadorian team who had arranged for them to lose to England. Yet the English team was so bad that they could not let them score a convincing goal."
You can order the book from here