For Burkina Faso coach Paul Put, who finds his team in the semifinal of the African Nations Cup against Ghana today, it was no great surprise that Europol should find evidence of
game-fixing in as many as 380 games across Europe. Put is one of the few coaches to return to the game after having been banned for match-fixing. He served a three-year ban after being found guilty of
fixing two games in 2005 as coach of Belgian club Lierse.
"Match-fixing has always existed insoccer," Put says. "If you look at cycling, at Lance Armstrong, it's always him who is pointed at but everybody was taking drugs. It's not that I've been doing match-fixing, not at all, but it has been declared in the media like this.” Put insists that like Armstrong, he has been branded a scapegoat. “You have to see what's going on in soccer,” he added. “There are a lot of big international players who are involved in match-fixing.”
In Put’s case, more than 40 people have been charged as part of a game-fixing ring organized by the Chinese businessman Ye Zheyun, but only one, Put himself, was suspended by the Belgian soccer federation ahead of the criminal trial, which might not come to court for another two years. "You know there are more than 40 people,” he said, adding that he felt threatened at the time: “The whole of Belgian soccer was sick … I was threatened by the mafia. My child was not safe. They threatened me with weapons and things like that. It's not nice to talk about these things but this is the reality."