Belize players claim they declined bribe to lose to the USA

Following their 6-1 loss to the United States in their first Gold Cup group-stage match, several members of first-time qualifiers Belize claimed they were repeatedly approached prior to the match by a match fixer. Belize, which is still in the process of raising the last $25,000 necessary to fund their trip across the USA for the tournament, scored in the 40th minute of their Portland opener after Chris Wondolowski scored the host nation's first two goals in the 12th and 37th minutes. Wondolowski then completed a hat trick before halftime and his teammates added three more goals in the second half, ending with Landon Donovan's penalty in the 76th minute.

The Belize players say they turned down the bribe attempts — which ESPN reports were for €10,000 ($13,074) — in the name of national pride. From the Edmonton Sun:

"(The briber) started (saying) we don't really stand a chance to beat the U.S so he wanted us to promise him that we would lose the game and that he would give us a large amount of money to change our lives in Belize and to help our families," Belizean defender Ian Gaynair told 7 News Belize.

The players claim they were first approached while at a Guatemalan airport before meeting the man at a Portland mall.

"I made him understand that we're not into taking money from him or anything like that, and we're here for our country," Belizean goalkeeper Woodrow West said.

It seems silly that a match fixer would feel the need to pay Belize to lose since that was naturally a very, very likely result anyway. Perhaps he wanted them to lose 79-0 like in the Nigerian fourth division.

This isn't the first time match fixing claims have hit the Gold Cup. CONCACAF investigated reports of match fixing in multiple games during the 2011 Gold Cup, but nothing came of it.

UPDATE: CONCACAF has released a statement in which they say they have "a positive identification of the individual attempting the bribery." Here's the statement in full:

CONCACAF was notified of an attempt to bribe Belize national team players Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair on July 7th, two days ahead of their Group A, Gold Cup match against the United States that took place in Portland, OR.

Both players directly approached confederation officials immediately after the incident took place to report the attempted offense.

Following the report by the players, CONCACAF launched a full investigation alongside FIFA.

Initial findings of this investigation have resulted in a positive identification of the individual attempting the bribery.

We want to thank Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair and recognize them for their bravery and commitment to preserving the integrity of our game.

The fight against match-manipulation is a top priority for CONCACAF. In alignment with FIFA guidelines and with the help of outside entities such as INTERPOL, we have taken all necessary measures to ensure the legitimacy of each game played throughout the 2013 Gold Cup. In the past months, CONCACAF, FIFA and INTERPOL have conducted three separate seminars with all Member Associations in the region that have focused on educating, identifying and preventing match manipulation.

We are precluded from commenting any further on this matter, due to the ongoing status of the investigation.

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