Football has a long tainted history of scandal and corruption that follows the course of the history of the world. Teams make undercut deals with coaches, players specify special conditions for wins, and match fixing is so common an occurrence that leagues would feel like the sky is falling if they don’t make a pact with referees at least once every few years. In the World Cup, however, the pressure for malicious-minded transactions must be evident at every waking moment for the month of expected joy.
According to MGM (Mystery Ghanaian Man), during the World Cup in Germany in 2006, six players from the Czech Republic offered Ghana’s goalkeeper, Richard Kingston, $300,000 the day before their match so he would throw the Group Stage contest. Kingston was led to the group of Czechs by a fellow Ghanaian. The Czechs specifically wanted him to throw the game 2-0. Kingston rejected the bribe.
With the winning bonus Ghana paid the players for winning the match set at $3,000, the Czechs offered Kingston ten times as much.
Really, that was it, Czech Republic?
Kingston refused the bribe and Ghana ended up winning the match, and later advanced to the Round of 16 before losing to Brazil.
Kingston wasn’t an automatic saint and proprietor of honor in the world’s greatest game, however.
“He didn’t reject the offer instantly,” said Mystery Ghanaian Man. “He came back to the hotel and talked to his family – his wife in particular, who advised him against it.
“She said she didn’t love him for his money, and that Richard Kingston should hold unto the finite and integrity of the game.”
Ignoring the claim by Kingston’s wife that she’s a witch and used black magic on Kingston to hurt his form (he took her advice, though!), the supposed bribery is concerning. 2006 was Ghana’s first ever World Cup appearance. African nations were beginning to have greater representation in the world’s most prestigious event, so any African nation making the World Cup at all was significant. But for Ghana to make for the first time – a nation that hasn’t had the smoothest of histories – it was destined to be a time of great bliss.
It may be a bit callous and overreaching to suggest the Czechs’ bribe was out of racism, but…is it? Bigotry and football, unfortunately, go hand in hand; just ask Patrice Evra. Many football players think certain nations shouldn’t even be represented in the World Cup, and if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to dish out a few dollars to wager there are some teams that don’t like the rise of African football. Racism towards blacks doesn’t occur only in America, people.
But if the motives for bribery weren’t for this evil, then perhaps it was simply fear.
“I think they were actually a bit nervous, “said MGM. “They didn't know what to expect from Ghana. On paper they (Czech Republic) were the better team.”
Okay, anxiety, Mystery Ghanaian Man. Whatever.
The World Cup is the pinnacle of sports success. The Stanley Cup, the European Cup, and even an Olympic gold medal, none are prestigious or as insanely difficult to touch as the FIFA World Cup Trophy. An entire roster is needed, once every four years, along with an insane amount of practice, capital, and good luck. A Group Stage, then knockout rounds to win it all, and you can’t it relies a lot on the talent your nation produces. Money is needed to bring the players together, yes, but some national teams don’t do well simply because they don’t produce fine players at home. This isn’t club football where you can pick and choose players all the time; your players usually make your team through ordinance of birth and family ties.
Even the greatest players in history are blessed to even win the trophy once. And even then, most legends don’t ever touch the greatest accolade for an athlete. So, even for the best team, I suppose it is understandable to want to secure the trophy. A football game is fickle and can end in a moment. Ghana, after all, beat the Czechs later on, so it just goes to show you that even the giants of the game can’t guarantee victory. Spending, however, is a little more full proof of a method to ensure a trophy; players in Europe are aware of this all the time.
Regardless, the shame Kingston would have brought to not only the game, but his nation, too, by accepting the bribe would have been monumental. Ghana had yet to have a prouder sport moment than seeing its national team reach Germany. It was the big time. They were there with the idols of football, Brazil, Italy, Germany, England, and more. Players like Richard Kingston saw the worlds of every football confederation come together in one country, for one month. And Ghana was able to represent an entire long-suffering continent in the Round of 16, overcoming so much doubt as to whether or not they could compete in the Earth’s biggest stage. By taking that bribe, Kingston would have essentially spat in the faces of every single Ghanaian, and even every African, in the world. Losing for money would have basically said that the African football nations couldn’t overcome the wealth and power of the behemoths of the world. It would have damaged whatever advancement they had been gaining in recent years.
“I think the fact that he didn't say no right away raises eyebrows,” said MGM. “It's either you're in or not.”
Of course, there is always the flip side to the allure. You can understand why Kingston did a double take when given the offer. For the average player, one football game won’t pay out that much. Kingston isn’t that rich of a footballer, so the cash offered must have made him at least ponder.
“To be fair, that's a tempting offer, especially when you factor in where he's coming from. Poor financial background, really, and he had the option to make it big and quick, too.”
Still, at least he faltered. He did a double take, allowed guilt to seep into his bones, felt his brow wet with sweat. Kingston wasn’t purely dirty in his consideration. He thought about the large sum of cash he was offered to lose to a team he wasn’t sure he could have beaten, anyway. A lot of people would have halted to reflect on the offer.
In the end, though, it’s a good judge of his character that he rejected the bribe. In this game of football, most players, referees, teams, fans, and more hearts than we can imagine, all succumb to temptation and allow their love of the game and integrity to be purchased. It’s an evil sport, but we love it, anyway.
“I do think there is more bribery and corruption going on in FIFA than what's out there,” said MGM. “We see traces of it in the bidding for the World Cup hosting, where Qatar allegedly just bought the rights to host the World Cup.”
Ack, where’s the love, man?!