The latest news of match fixing in soccer washed around the globe today, and it was the usual depressing stuff about this game and that game and about 680 other games played from 2008 through 2011 that were deemed “suspicious” by the authorities and may have been fixed, by gamblers.
And then there was the UAE reaction to the news story, which was interesting and curious.
And that reaction would be: It can’t happen here.
It Can’t Happen Here was the title of a 1935 book by Sinclair Lewis, about the U.S. being taken over by a fascist dictator, and so far (most Americans believe) it hasn’t happened there.
The notion, however, is that when you assume something is impossible, and do not plan for it and are not on the lookout for potentially sliding into the very trouble you attribute only to others … that is when you are most at risk.
That certainly would seem to be the situation here in the UAE, where the local soccer league, the Pro League, has no particular measures in place to combat match fixing — other than an unshakeable belief that it can’t happen here.
We did a local-reaction piece to the fixing news, in The National, and we found that a former CEO of the league said zero fixing counter-measures were in place, when he headed the league in 2010-11. Further, we found that the assumption here is that for cultural and religious reasons, games could not be fixed.
That thinking generally encompassed the ideas that gambling is forbidden by Islam … that Emiratis have no history of gambling … and that people (the citizens, that is) here have enough money that whatever ill-gotten gains could be generated by some grubby fixing scheme would be negligible. Certainly not worth the trouble and risk.
I can see how that would be the thinking — most people here have trouble even conceiving of this.
However, even as I was calling around on this topic, one source did mention, off-handedly, that “there was that one attempt” … a few years back pertain to arrange an outcome. Though, he was quick to note, it wasn’t about gambling, it was about finishing in a certain position in the league.
Plus, the inability to consider that some of the foreigners in the league (every team has four) might be willing to tank a game … seems a bit dangerous. How many Brazilian forwards would you need to corrupt to guarantee defeat? Two? Make sure they don’t score, and one of them gives up a handball in the box, and they lose 1-0 on a penalty.
It can’t happen here … maybe not a good approach to a problem so pervasive in much of the rest of the world.