The whispers started on Sunday night during our pork schnitzel Gooner Supper Club dinner. They became persistent, louder. They became too loud and constant to ignore.
Scandal is no stranger in football. This spring, after years of allegations of fraud and bribery at FIFA, the FBI brought charges against numerous highly placed FIFA officials for participating in bribery in the US, around the FIFA presidential election, sponsorships, and placement of World Cup tournaments. The FBI’s action precipitated the resignation of FIFA President Seth Blatter, who seemingly would have remained FIFA President for life, so solid was his support. (In fact, after the FBI brought these charges, Blatter was re-elected days later.) This is the governing body of the sport. Is there any chance for us small potatoes to avoid the same?
Across history there have been many accusations and successfully prosecuted instances of match fixing worldwide by players and managers. The insane array of betting options certainly must contribute to this. At this time, it’s possible to bet not just on game outcomes and scores, but things like time of the first corner to occur in the game, most corners in the game, missed penalties, total converted penalties, man of the match, first player booked, number of yellow and red cards in a match, whether both teams will score, quickest goal, aggregate time of all goals scores, own goals, team to score last. It’s easy to see how it might be possible for a player to accept a bribe undetected to influence the outcome of such betting.
Even without bribery, players have had no historical problem perpetrating graft to get favorable results: diving, cheating. Some of it is opportunistic. Who can forget the hand of God (aka Diego Maradonna) goal in the 1986 World Cup that saw Argentina advance to the semifinals and England go home? Or Arjen Robben’s infamous dive against Mexico that earned him a penalty in the 2014 World Cup? (It’s hard to pick just one diving moment for Robben, so often has he earned penalties for both country and club by theatrically throwing himself to the turf.) Or where Luis Suarez intentionally handled the ball on the goal line to prevent a winning Ghana goal in the 2010 World Cup, producing a penalty that was not successfully converted to a goal, following Ghana losing in the ensuing penalty shootout?
Some of the graft has been planned. Like the hoax perpetrated by Chile while playing Brazil in the final qualifier for the 1990 World Cup. After going down by a goal with 20 minutes remaining in the match, a flare was thrown onto the field, ostensibly by Brazilian fans, seemingly hitting goalkeeper Roberto Rojas and bloodying him in the forehead. Chile refused to continue playing and referees abandoned the match. It looked as though Brazil would be denied attending the World Cup until photographic evidence demonstrated that the flare had hit nowhere near the keeper. The Chilean goalkeeper had hidden a razor blade in his glove and cut himself, on command, when the flare hit the pitch.
And now footballing scandal has touched this very blog. For we discovered that in fact Mesut Özil was not the official man of the match in Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace, whom we celebrated in our first Gooner Supper Club. That honor actually went to Santi Cazorla, a Spaniard. By all rights, we should have been dining on paella or gazpacho instead of pork schnitzel.
Now, who is at the heart of this fraud? WholeArsed has conducted an in-depth enquiry into the unsavory affair.
The moment the final whistle blew in the match, WholeArsed walked at top speed to church with her son in tow to arrive on time so she could see her daughter participate in the service with the youth band. On the way, she noted aloud to her son that she had failed to request that her husband check to see who was man of the match. WholeArsed did not check for the man of the match using her phone in church. Was this because she had reformed her evil ways? Was it because she was enjoying an absolutely lovely and touching service in which the youth band performed an awesome rendition of U2’s classic I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and led another song that made WholeArsed teary eyed?
That did happen, but despite the tears, WholeArsed is not reformed. What she is: the owner of a phone that had hit 75% of the data plan only two weeks into the reporting cycle. Therefore, she had been forced to turn off data to get through the rest of the cycle. There is some dispute about how WholeArsed managed to reach this 75% limit. She had explained to her husband it was possibly because of using MapQuest and other services during the recent college visiting foray to Nashville, but there is also reason to believe that it was the result of writing a blog post on the phone one night when she was supposed to be watching and reporting on her son’s soccer tryout on behalf of said husband who was taking a class and couldn’t be present. We can’t be 100% sure.
When WholeArsed returned home from church, her son informed her that Mesut Özil was “the best player in the match.” WholeArsed interpreted this as Man of the Match, reviewed statistics on his play and many other match reports on Football 365, ESPN, and Arseblog, and wrote the post declaring Mesut Özil the subject of the Gooner Supper Club. WholeArsed’s son left to play soccer in the park and did not return for many hours. During those hours, WholeArsed visited with her niece, had lunch, took a nap, did some reading, shopped for pork schnitzel ingredients, prepared dinner.
When WholeArsed’s son returned from the park and sat down to a lovely plate of pork schnitzel with a photo of Mesut Özil adorning the table, he wondered out loud what was going on. As WholeArsed explained why the schnitzel, why the Özil photo, he got a worried look on his face. “Mom, I’m not 100% sure Özil was official man of the match.” Later, while WholeArsed was baking a devil’s food cake for his 14th birthday celebration, he looked it up and found a real report. We knew for sure at that point on Sunday evening that the official man of the match was Santi Cazorla. Oddly, his award was picked up by Olivier Giroud on his behalf because Santi was being drug tested.
A review of WholeArsed household bank accounts concludes that no bribes were accepted from Özil or anyone else in this matter. We conclude the improper naming of Özil as Man of the Match was an unfortunate accident with no fraudulent intent.
In looking at the player statistics and player ratings from other sources, we’re not quite sure how Cazorla was named man of the match over Özil—should it be investigated?—but we love Santi here at WholeArsed, and we are ready to make amends.
We considered that we might have a make-up call, referee style: When Özil ultimately does win the man of the match honor in a future game, we would instead honor Santi at that time. But we hate make-up calls, so it seems the right thing to do is to celebrate Santi right now. WholeArsed proposes that we do so with a nice Sangria. The recipe is here. Or for a nonalcoholic version, here.
Santi, mea culpa.
I hope the drug test went well, or we’ll have a fresh scandal on our hands.