Former player Mario Cizmek of Croatia says he agreed to fix one match in 2011 after he and his teammates had not been paid by his club for more than a year. That led to repeated demands by the fixer, a well-known former coach who used to drink at the same bar as Cizmek’s team. It was a classic case of a trusted acquaintance approaching a player to throw a match — a method that Forrest’s report says is used often.
‘‘As a sportsman, I know I destroyed everything, but at the time I was only thinking about my family and setting things right,’’ Cizmek said in an interview.
Now broke, unemployed and divorced, Cizmek has been sentenced to 10 months in jail by a court in Zagreb.
Because scoring in soccer is so low, its referees have an outsized influence on the game. In a Jan. 22 memo, FIFA urged its members to demand that referees tell soccer authorities immediately about ‘‘any suspicious situations, contact or information.’’
‘‘Our global experience is that referees and assistant referees are the primary target of match-fixers,’’ the memo said.
FIFA has been trying to improve its referee ranks with more training and taking proactive measures such as paying referees with checks instead of cash.
Dmitrovic said when fixed games in Serbia were not going according to plan, corrupt referees would step in with questionable calls to ‘‘achieve the desired result.’’
‘‘The referees always knew what was going on,’’ he said.
Tainted referees also are believed to be at the heart of one or more games involving South Africa in 2010, with a FIFA report in December finding ‘‘compelling evidence’’ of match-fixing.
In 2011, two friendly matches in the Turkish beach resort of Antalya — one between Bolivia and Latvia, the other between Bulgaria and Estonia — appeared suspicious when all seven goals came from penalty kicks awarded by referees. The German magazine Stern later reported that $6.9 million was wagered on the Bulgarian game alone.
FIFA banned the six eastern European officials involved in those games for life.
Officials who govern the sport can’t stop match-fixing by themselves and need the cooperation of law enforcement bodies and governments across borders, said Schenk of Transparency International.
Noble, the Interpol chief, agreed.
‘‘It’s definitely beyond and above the world of sport, above and beyond FIFA,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s fair to say we haven’t caught up to the scale of the problem.’’
During the 2010 World Cup, police in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand arrested more than 5,000 people in Interpol-organized raids on nearly 800 illegal gambling dens. Interpol organized other raids in 2011 and 2012, but does not make arrests or conduct national investigations itself.
Schenk and the players’ union say soccer authorities must also make sure their own ranks are free of corruption. One World Cup ticket scandal was linked to the family of a senior FIFA vice president while the former head of Zimbabwe’s soccer federation is accused in a corruption scam.
‘‘There is a strong link between good governance in the bodies that run sports and the sport organizations’ credibility in the fight against match-fixing,’’ Schenk wrote in a commentary. ‘‘Unless sport organizations are accountable and transparent, they will not have the authority to tackle the problem.’’
Both Schenk and FIFA chief Blatter say whistleblowers must also be protected better.
In 2011, Italian defender Simone Farina turned down a fixer’s offer of $261,500 to throw a game and reported it to police, setting off an investigation that led to scores of arrests. Despite being honored by FIFA, he found himself shunned by many in Italy who considered him a snitch.
‘‘I said no because my immediate thoughts were of my wife, son and daughter,’’ Farina said. ‘‘How could I look them in the eye if I said yes? What kind of husband and father would I be?’’
Cizmek — the Croatian player who said he took $26,100 but handed back all but about $650 to police — says his scars from match-fixing will last a lifetime.
‘‘This turned my life upside down,’’ he said. ‘‘I should have just taken my football shoes and hung them on the wall and said ‘Thank you, guys’ and gone on to do something else.’’
John Leicester in Paris, Graham Dunbar in Geneva, Gerard Imray in Johannesburg, Mike Corder in Amsterdam and Menelaos Hajicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.
Norman-Culp is AP’s Assistant Europe Editor in London. Prior to that, she covered FIFA for AP in Zurich. Follow her at snormanculp(at)twitter.comContinued...