The Darker Side of Football

A historical analysis at some of the sport's biggest scandals


Football is considered the king of sports and billions of fans enjoy the game on a weekly or even daily basis.

The exciting spectacle and high unpredictability of results compared to other team sports are some of the reasons football is such an interesting game to follow.

However, there is also a dark side in football with a number of scandals tormenting the game. We look at some of the major incidents that have plagued the game, including match-fixing, corruption, and even murder.

Olympique de Marseille

Olympique de Marseille are the only French football team that has won the Champions League or European Cup. The managed to pull that off in 1993 against Milan with a 1-0 victory.

In addition to that, in 1993 Olympique de Marseille won their fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title. Not long after the French team’s victory, a scandal arose that involved the Marseille club.

It was revealed that the president of the club, Bernard Tapie, and other officials, had bribed Valenciennes at the last game of the season. Despite Marseille’s opponent being an underdog, it was a must-win game for them in order to secure the Ligue 1 title, only days before the Champions League final. As a result, the bribing was primarily done in order to avoid any possible injuries by the opposition side.

The French club was punished by being relegated to the second division and also banned from participating in European competitions for the following season. In addition, the president of the club Bernard Tapie was given a lifetime ban from football.

However, as the scandal took place in the French league, Marseille’s status as European champions was not affected and hence they remain the only French team to have won the Champions League trophy.


In May 2006, a couple of months prior to the national Italian team winning their fourth and last World Cup up to now, the biggest scandal in Italian football took place. The 2006 Italian Football scandal referred to as Calciopoli, involved a network of relations among team managers and referee organizations in selecting favorable referees. After numerous investigations of telephone conversations by the Italian police in Seria A and Seria B, five clubs were found guilty and punished as a result.

The 2006 championship winners, Juventus, received the harshest punishment by being relegated to Seria B and having to start the season with -9 points. Furthermore, their last two titles were revoked.

The rest of the clubs that were involved in the scandal and hence punished included AC Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Reggina. Deduction of points, home games behind closed doors, exclusion from European club competitions and fines were among the punishments handed out to those five teams.

Andres Escobar

Latin America is the place where extreme events on and off the pitch take place more often than anywhere else in the world of football. The story of Andres Escobar is, unfortunately, one of the most tragic and saddest things to have ever happened off the pitch.

At the 1994 World Cup, Colombia faced the United States for their second group stage match. The result of that game was vital towards progression to the knock-out stage. An own goal scored by Colombian defenders Andres Escobar resulted in the defeat of the Latin American country with a 2-1 score and hence knocked out of the World Cup.

Five days after the elimination of Colombia, at a nightclub in Medellin, Andres Escobar had a verbal argument with three men. While walking towards his car parked outside the Colombian defender was shot dead six times by one of those men.

It was reported that ‘Goal’ was shouted after each shot, once for every time the football commentator had said it during the broadcast.

“It was reported that ‘Goal’ was shouted after each shot, once for every time the football commentator had said it during the broadcast.”

The killer, named Humberto Castro Munoz, was a member of a Colombian drug cartel. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for 43 years, later reduced to 26.

Andres Escobar’s funeral was attended by more than 120,000 people. During the following years, attendance to Colombian football league matches was dramatically reduced as a way of protest to the incident. The reduction in attendance was also related to the criminality present in football in the country. As a tribute to his memory a statue of Andres was built at the town of Medellin.

World Cup 1982 – West Germany vs Austria

At the 1982 Italy World Cup, West Germany faced Austria in the final game of their group stage. After knowing the result of Algeria, a possible 1-0 victory for West Germany would send both the Germans and Austrians to the knock out stage. West Germany scored a 10th-minute goal.

“West Germany scored a 10th-minute goal. A ‘lethargy’ by both sides followed.”

A ‘lethargy’ by both sides followed. No more attacks took place, making it obvious that no one was interested in scoring any more goals. West Germany and Austria qualified to the next round and despite formal protests by the Algerian Football Association, no action was taken by FIFA. However, it has to be mentioned that the particular instance was the reason final group matches are now being played at the same time.

The 2015 FIFA Corruption Scandal

Through the years, FIFA have been accused of a large number of instances of corruption. Most of these instances are related to sponsorship deals, TV rights, and the voting procedure for a tournament’s hosting country or countries. No serious actions were ever taken against FIFA. That changed in 2015.

The 2015 FIFA corruption case was based on a number of allegations including bribery, fraud, and money-laundering which shocked the world of football. The scandal was multidimensional as it involved officials of more than twenty (mainly Latin American) countries, in regards to corruption, related to the issuing of media and marketing rights for FIFA Copa America 2016 , at an estimated value of 150 million dollars. In addition, the allegations consisted of other issues such as the selection process of the 2010 FIFA World Cup host, the 2011 FIFA presidential election and the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

“My mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody”. – Sepp Blatter

As a result of the investigations, a number of officials were arrested with some of them being convicted. This list includes FIFA’s vice president Juan Angel Napout and the former president of Brazilian football confederation Jose Marian Marin, among others.

Some weeks after the arrests of the afforementioned officials, that took place at a hotel of the home town of FIFA Zurich, the president of FIFA Sepp Blatter resigned after holding the position for 17 years. Blatter said during a press conference at the time: “my mandate does not appear to be supported by everybody”.

In the context of the events and allegations, that statement from Blatter was a gross understatement and mischaracterization of what had happened and why he was resigning.

Later that year, FIFA’s ethics committee banned Blatter from football for a period of eight years, later reduced to six.

by Joseph Violaris


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