Interpol is investigating a reported attempt to fix the Belize – USA game in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football Associations (CONCACAF) Gold Cup played at the Jeld-Wen Stadium in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, July 9.
CONCACAF passed the investigation over to Interpol after Belize’s head coach, Ian Mork, reported that two of Belize’s national team players, goalkeeper Woodrow West and defender Ian Gaynair, had each been offered large financial bribes if they would deliberately throw the Belize-USA game.
The players told Mork that the offer came from a purported football fan, whom they met in Guatemala on June 10, when they played an international practice friendly match with the Guatemalan national team in Guatemala’s old capital, Antigua.
In an interview with Channel 7 News, Gaynair and West said that they walked away from the unnamed briber.
West explained, “Yolo (Gaynair) walked away and I followed him … so when we went, he chased us and grabbed us and told us not to tell anyone; and that if we didn’t tell anyone, when we got to Belize he would give us $10,000 euros.”
Football Federation of Belize Luis Pena confirmed to Reporter that the players had indeed been approached with such an offer, and that CONCACAF has increased security for the team as a result.
He said the FFB had warned the entire team of precisely such a danger during their briefing, even before they travelled to the United States. Pena also said that the players were made well aware of the severe long term consequences if they accepted any such bribe: a life-time ban from the sport.
Gaynair reported that the man had first befriended them in Guatemala, where, in a conversation about his interest in visiting Belize, he had also obtained West’s phone number, after he bought tickets for the Belize-Guatemala game from them.
In Oregon, however, he tried to sell them the idea that they really had no chance of beating the U.S. He also got them involved in a discussion about their families’ financial situation in Belize, saying that the financial rewards for playing football are a pittance and, if they wanted to make some “real” money, all they had to do was promise that they would lose the game with the U.S.
When West’s and Gaynair’s countenance showed how repugnant they found such a suggestion, the man produced a large wad of cash of $100’s and $50’s to show them he was serious. He even tried to force them to accept the money, saying all they had to do was keep quiet about the offer.
As they later told the Belizean media, they refused to allow their national pride and their individual talents to be cheapened by such tricks.