While the midweek Champions League games brought the high profile exit of two of the major Premiership teams, there’s another set of games that bears looking at. Fans of the two Manchester clubs should spare a thought for Ajax in Group D.
After the game the rumours and hearsay were flying around Twitter (as usual) but the bar was raised by the reaction of the Ajax manager Frank de Boer who proceeded to go on a huge rant and effectively accuse Lyon of buying the result. There is already an investigation underway by the French betting authorities, ARJEL, who have found no irregular patterns at the moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything as yet, as investigations such as these while not routine are not unusual.
But is this an example of match fixing? Corruption exists in sport of course. The high profile spot-fixing case involving Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir comes immediately to mind, as does the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italian football a few years back. But this particular example, while clearly a freak set of circumstances, does not seem to be that likely a candidate for corruption. It would involve an awful lot of payments and agreements all put together in an elaborate scheme to make this happen. This would include paying off not just Zagreb, but also Real Madrid (expensive), both referees and most likely some Ajax players as well. Possibly even the Ajax manager (not that I’m suggesting this is what happened, it’s following a train of logic to a stupid conclusion).
All this seems a tad far-fetched. Perhaps the football world should sometimes just sit back in wonder that such a huge turnaround and random occurrence can still take place in modern football, without thinking the worst of the game. It’s sad that a night which provided a truly great football story, which showed that if you just keep going and throw everything at it you could just overcome, should be overshadowed by a spectre of rumour, speculation and mistrust.