This article about cheating in soccer is fascinating, but has a bleak outlook on the future of the sport.
Right now, Dan Tan’s programmers are busy reverse-engineering the safeguards of online betting houses. About $3 billion is wagered on sports every day, most of it on soccer, most of it in Asia. That’s a lot of noise on the big exchanges. We can exploit the fluctuations, rig the bets in a way that won’t trip the houses’ alarms. And there are so many moments in a soccer game that could swing either way. All you have to do is see an Ilves tackle in the box where maybe the Viikingit forward took a dive. It happens all the time. It would happen anyway. So while you’re running around the pitch in Finland, the syndicate will have computers placing high-volume max bets on whatever outcome the bosses decided on, using markets in Manila that take bets during games, timing the surges so the security bots don’t spot anything suspicious. The exchanges don’t care, not really. They get a cut of all the action anyway. The system is stacked so it’s gamblers further down the chain who bear all the risks.
It’s a good follow up to the article published in ESPN The Magazine in May (which I posted previously).
The world’s most popular game is also its most corrupt, with investigations into match fixing ongoing in more than 25 countries. Here’s a mere sampling of events since the beginning of last year: Operation Last Bet rocked the Italian Football Federation, with 22 clubs and 52 players awaiting trial for fixing matches; the Zimbabwe Football Association banned 80 players from its national-team selection due to similar accusations; Lu Jun, the first Chinese referee of a World Cup match, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for taking more than $128,000 in bribes to fix outcomes in the Chinese Super League; prosecutors charged 57 people with match fixing in the South Korean K-League, four of whom later died in suspected suicides; the team director of second-division Hungarian club REAC Budapest jumped off a building after six of his players were arrested for fixing games; and in an under-21 friendly, Turkmenistan reportedly beat Maldives 3-2 in a “ghost match” — neither country knew about the contest because it never actually happened, yet bookmakers still took action and fixers still profited.
The 2012 Eurocup is coming up in a bit, and the hosts this year are Ukraine and Poland. The hardcore supporters of some of the teams in Poland and Ukraine have been known to use racist and anti-semitic chants and imagery, and there is some concern that non-white fans of teams participating in the Euro Cup could be targeted for violence. Chris Rogers of BBC Panorama went to watch some games in Ukraine and Poland and saw some pretty shocking things from the fans. I don’t usually watch videos longer than 5 minutes (who am I kidding, 1 minute) on Youtube, but I watched all 28 minutes of this.
Ferran Adria has another new job. Sports nutritionist for FC Barcelona’s youth team. (The other one is at Pepsi).
The Spanish club recruited famed chef Ferran Adria on Thursday to revamp its youth academy menu. The European champions say the former El Bulli chef will redesign the club’s La Masia meals to ‘foster healthy eating and exercise’ by providing the Catalan club’s future stars with the best possible diet.
Watch the Man City keeper sprint the length of the field to prevent a goal by Manchester United. The guy is Usain Bolt fast. At least compared to the other players he is.
Via Jonah Keri, who never fails to fill my Google Reader Share folder with awesome stuff. By the way, Jonah has a book about the Rays coming out in March, and just launched a podcast you should be listening to if you like good stuff.
Here’s an explanation of the 2010 World Cup team nicknames. My favorites:
Denmark – Danish Dynamite, Olsen-Banden (The Olsen Gang), Olsen’s Elleve (Olsen’s Eleven)
Why: The brilliant Denmark team of the 1980s was called Danish Dynamite, while the current are nicknamed after coach Morten Olsen. Sounds like a short term strategy for a nickname, but Olsen has been in charge since the year 2000. Plus Olsen’s Eleven is a world class pun.
England – The Three Lions
Why: There are three lions on the Football Association crest, in reference to the total number of lions ever spotted in England. Or because of the English coat of arms.
Out of the World Cup commercials for the big 3 sneaker companies, this is the most original, and certainly the only one featuring Snoop Dog with a light saber. I like.
Puma made a 2010 World Cup commercial, too. Just as fun.
It strikes me that this video is one of the reasons soccer is struggling to catch on in the US. You NEVER see people flopping like this during a curling competition, which might be one reason curling is gaining in popularity.