Thursday, December 9, 2021

Porto’s shame tarnishes the whole of football

Jose Mourinho achieved miracles with Porto and laid the foundations for his reputation as one of the world’s finest coaches. Although not believed to be involved, the news coming out of Uefa yesterday has to cast a shadow over those achievements.

The reporting of the ‘match fixing’ scandal in Portugal in 2003-04 has been very minimal. Yesterday, Uefa punished the club concerned, Porto, by banning them from next season’s Champions League competition. Porto had been found guilty of bribing referees on two occasions during league matches that season. The allegations relate to Porto’s 2-0 win against Estrela da Amadora and their 0-0 draw with Beira Mar.

The Portuguese authorities docked six points from Porto as a punishment but that failed to have any impact on the league positions. Porto won their domestic title in the 2003-04 season by eight points from Benfica.

Meanwhile, club president Jorge Pinto da Costa is to go to trial in a civil lawsuit brought by Porto prosecutors after he was accused of bribing the referee of the Beira Mar v Porto game.

Am I the only person to be deeply concerned by this story? From the low profile the case is being given I guess that I am! We all know the corruption that has surfaced in the Italian game that the authorities are desperately trying to eradicate, but in order to retain my love of the beautiful game in general I have to believe that the game is ‘clean’.

I know there will always be murky areas of the game, particularly around transfer payments and agents, but the actual game, the ninety minutes we all pay to watch, must be honest, above board and fair. The teams have to be on a level playing field in all senses of the phrase.

I know that it is probably best not to ask the following questions, but I’m going to anyway because as a fan I need to know the answers.

1. Were these two games the only ones where Porto bribed or attempted to bribe the officials? The reason I ask is because when a person is caught stealing from a shop, they are rarely caught on the first occasion they do it, yet they never admit to doing it before.

2. Were/are Porto the only side in Europe who have gone down this path? With so many teams in Europe’s top leagues, this seems unlikely.

3. Have Porto or anyone else for that matter bribed any officials in the three seasons since the time of the alleged offences? If not, why did they stop? Is it likely that Porto were the only club who thought they could get away with this?

4. How can I be sure that the games I am watching are free from corruption?

The enquiry found that the players and their manager at the time Jose Mourinho were totally innocent of any wrong doing. Of that we should be grateful. However, how can we ever be certain that Porto’s surprising Champions League win in that season was achieved through skill and ability alone?

When football gets a bad press because of the ridiculous wages, bad behaviour of the players on and off the pitch, crowd violence and whatever else people choose to throw at the game, I am the first to leap to its defence. I vociferously defend the game on the basis of its entertainment value, its traditions and the fact that unlike horse racing, for example, the game itself is entirely above suspicion. Without that trust and faith in the game the whole thing begins to fall apart.

I am quick to condemn managers such as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson when they whinge and moan about refereeing decisions. My thoughts are that they should simply accept that referees make mistakes and move on. How many times do we hear that ‘these things will even themselves out over the season’?

It doesn’t bear thinking about that some of the poorest refereeing decisions are anything other than genuine mistakes. The thought that penalty decisions in Champions League semi-finals or Premier League deciders are anything other than honest decisions by officials doing the job to the best of their ability is too shocking to even contemplate.

For the sake of my sanity I will choose to believe that this was a ‘one off’ case that the authorities discovered and clamped down on. I will choose to believe that all the football I love to watch is entirely above suspicion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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I would like to know what went on before the Liverpool Everton game earlier this season………………..;

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