Easygoing Five: Five Sporting Fixes
Following the female badminton scandal at the Olympics JOE looks at five famous incidents of athletes fixing matches.
With London 2012 underway and the scandals, mudslinging and accusations already rolling, JOE took inspiration from the Olympic badminton controversy to look at some of the most other infamous, hilarious and ballsy incidents of athletes throwing matches.
The Phantom Punch
It’s one of the greatest images of sports, photographed by Neil Leifer it shows the young Muhammad Ali standing triumphant over the limp, defeated body of the former baddest man on the planet, Sonny Liston.
Yet it is also one of the greatest suspected incidents of match-fixing in boxing, a sport that saw its fair share of scandals before being cleaned up by the Kefauver Commission in the 1950s. This could have been the last great hurrah of corruption.
Ali had won the first fight unexpectedly, winning the World title against Liston, a man billed as an unstoppable monster who had decimated former great champions like Floyd Patterson. He was the genesis of Mike Tyson, George Foreman and every other vicious heavyweight that has graced/menaced the ring.
Midway through the first round in this rematch that Liston was expected to win against the flashy, overconfident Clay, Liston went down, many not observing a blow that Ali called an ‘Anchor punch’ and many others dubbed the ‘Phantom punch.’
Sports Illustrated and others called foul on this bout for heavyweight title. Liston’s links to the mob were well-known and many suspected he owed them money. Liston himself said he feared retribution from the Nation of Islam who supported Ali should he win and he threw the fight. Neither theory has been independently verified. The punch might even have been legit.
Either way Liston was found dead in suspicious circumstances in 1970 and this fight is considered the most notorious in heavyweight history.
The Treaty of Ireland and Holland at Italia ‘90
Ireland can hardly be absolved in these incidents, although Ireland’s match against Holland in Italia’ 90 was more common- sense than malevolent manipulating.
At Italia ’90 Ireland and Holland were playing each other in the last group game. Ruud Gullit scored the opener, followed by a Niall Quinn equaliser. With England beating Egypt in the other group match both sides knew if the result stayed the same they’d both be through to the next round.
Captains Mick McCarthy and Ruud Gullit met in the middle of the pitch to make sure that the message was spread throughout both teams and both sides started to pass the ball around their back four with no intention of scoring in a farcical display.
Before the match Big Jack Charlton said, “The Dutch match will be a good game. The Dutch will come and have a go at us and we’ll come and have a go at them and it will be a good honest, hardworking game with the result either going to us or Holland at the end of the game.”
Wrong on all counts Jack.
A dodgy sounding Nigerian scam?
It’s not hard to do the maths and find this result slightly unbelievable.
In 2006, Akwa United were in the second tier of the Nigerian football league and needed 12 goals on the last day of the season to gain promotion to the Nigerian Premier League ahead of rivals Bussodor, any less and Bussodor were up.
Akwa had only scored 12 goals in their 14 games, so it looked like it was a foregone conclusion.
Instead, Akwa United beat Calabar Rovers 13-0 to get promoted.
This prompted complaints from Bussodor who protested that the referee had sent off three Rovers players, including the goalkeeper, and the league set up a committee to look into the affair.
It should be noted in this incident that the previous March of that year. the head of the Nigerian Football Association caused a stir when he told referees they could take bribes but should still be fair.
The Chicago Black Sox
It’s a scandal that has gone down in American folklore and perhaps the biggest slap in the face for “truth, justice and the American way” and marred the image of the American past-time.
It became to be known as “the Chicago Black Sox scandal” when eight members of the Chicago White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series in order to make some money and get back at their tight-wad boss Charles Comiskey and straight-laced team mates they resented.
The conspiracy was thought of by first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil, who had ties to the mob and he got notorious New York gangster Arnold Rothstein involved.
The Cincinnati Reds won the series but the plot was eventually uncovered and eight players were banned for life including; Eddie Cicotte, Oscar “Happy” Felsch, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, George “Buck” Weaver and Claude “Lefty” Williams.
With names like that you would have thought that he officials might have suspected they had connections to gangsters.
Photo Credit: 90FeetOfPerfection.com
Life in the don’t go fast lane
It has been a frequent feature in Formula One for teams to protect their marquee driver by not letting them get beaten by their team-mates, this is forbidden by a rule that states team orders are not allowed to influence the outcome of races.
In 2010 the Ferrari Formula One team gave Felipe Massa, who was leading the German Grand Prix this message: “Fernando (Alonso) is faster than you, Can you confirm you understand that message?” A few moments later Massa slowed down and allowed Ferrari’s main driver championship driver Alonso to pass him.
The team were fined $100,000 for this at the time.