Three players from the Belize national soccer team were reportedly offered a bribe to blow their Gold Cup match against the USA on Tuesday, according to 7 News Belize. The United States won the match 6-1.
Midfielder Andres Makin Jr., defender Ian Gaynair, and goalie Woodrow West of the Belize national team said that they were approached by a man in Guatemala who told them that they didn’t have a chance to beat the USA men’s national team and offered them money to guarantee a loss.
Belize team president Ruperto Vicente offered his thoughts on the incident. “I’m happy that the players came forward and made the report when they were approached,” he said. “Belize has become a target because they realize we are a poor federation. But understand that we had spoken to our players and we told them that there will be people in the United States who will come and try to bribe them and get them to be involved in match fixing.”
I’m not sure what to make of the part where Vicente guaranteed his players that they would get approached by match-fixers in the United States. Is this really that commonplace in the sport of soccer and in our country? Do less affluent nations often become prey for match-fixers? There isn’t a clear affirmative or negative answer to those questions, but it’s interesting to think that there’s this whole world of bribery and match-fixing going on in soccer that we don’t know about.
As for what actually happened, Gaynair said that man explained the money would “change our lives in Belize and help our families.” He added that he was aware that match-fixing can lead to a lifetime ban from the sport, so he declined despite the man holding stacks of fifty and one hundred dollar bills in his hand that he offered to give them on the spot.
“At the end of the day, our country is behind us and we just made history for these big games, so we can’t just sell out our country for a little bit of money. We might not be making a lot of money in Belize, but we still have to look at our career and our future.”
West had a similar response, telling the man that he was representing his country before getting frightened, grabbing his two teammates, and walking away. West says that the man then chased after them and offered them 10,000 euro to keep quiet about the bribe offer.
The Belize players said that the man later called them when they were in Portland for the match and met them at a mall near their hotel. It is unclear if they willingly met him or if he approached them on his own. It is also unclear which parts of the story happened in Guatemala and which happened in Portland, but what matters most is that there was an attempt to bribe international soccer players to fix a Gold Cup match.
This is a very weird story and CONCACAF is leading an investigation into the incident.