'Fixing matches was easy'

HARARE - Self-confessed football match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal has revealed he found it easy to fix matches involving the Zimbabwe national team after infiltrating the country’s governing body way back in 1997.

Previously, it had been thought that the Singapore national started fixing Warriors matches in 2007 when the Asiagate match-fixing scandal was unearthed.

However, in a recent interview with CNN, Perumal, who was convicted of match-fixing four times in various countries, revealed his history with the Warriors dates back to 1997.

The 49-year-old said his first foray into international match-fixing was the friendly match between Zimbabwe and Bosnia Herzegovina in 1997.

Perumal alleges up to six Warriors players had agreed to lose the match 4-0 in return for a share of $100 000.

But the game, played in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia finished in a 2-2 draw.

“We gave them a result that was difficult to accomplish and what happened during the game was that one player accidentally kicked the ball into the net,” Perumal told CNN.

Perumal would strike again by paying officials and players to lose a string of matches by predetermined score lines between 2007 and 2009.

“We were like two hands prepared to clap,” Perumal said.

Former Fifa match-fixing investigator, Terry Steans, was shocked when he was handed a Fifa case file on match-fixing in Zimbabwe in 2009.

“Five years later, I know yes it was and yes it is. But that file opened our eyes and it was to set Fifa Security, at that time, on a path to try and discover as much as we could about the fixers and how prevalent and widespread they were.”

Zimbabwe’s game was destroyed by the fixing scandal, Steans says.

Dozens of players and officials were sanctioned, some receiving life bans while others were barred from playing for several years.

Perumal says he achieved around a 70-80 percent success rate and claims to have rigged games at the Olympics, World Cup qualifiers, the Women’s World Cup, the Concacaf Gold Cup and the African Nations Cup.

But his attempts to corrupt did not always go undetected by the authorities, notably in Singapore, where he was imprisoned three times for football-related offences.

In 1995, he was jailed for 12 months for trying to bribe a football player.

Four years later he was imprisoned for 26 months for introducing a referee to a match-fixer and in 2000 he attacked a footballer with a hockey stick prior to a game — an offence he says he deeply regrets.

In 2011, the football authorities eventually caught up with Perumal again, this time in Finland where he was arrested and subsequently jailed for fixing matches in the Veikkausliiga, the country’s premier football division.

He might have lost all his ill-gotten gains but Perumal looks back fondly on that period of his life.

“I have no regrets. It was like, it was a phase of my life and I enjoyed it and I travelled around the world. I had a good time,” he said.

“Football is no longer a sport. It is more like a business now. So I think we’re just trying to make money out of this business. People want to win and they will do anything just to get a result.”

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