Wynton Rufer is New Zealand's greatest exponent of "the beautiful game".
So it was no surprise to discover the All Whites legend was deeply saddened by yesterday's football fixing revelations, as a joint European police inquiry cast a dark shadow over about 680 suspicious matches.
It stretches to the highest levels of the game that Rufer once graced, including World Cup qualifiers, Euro, and the Champions League.
"It's a blow, any of that sort of crap, no-one likes," said Rufer, the Oceania player of the 20th century.
"Fifa and Uefa, they're always speaking about it, to try and scare the people off. But money drives everything and there's people obviously earning a lot of money on this stuff. So they'll do anything to make a quid."
Rufer yesterday arrived back in Auckland from a charity football clinic in New Delhi, where he shared his expert skills with underprivileged children.
That experience only made Rufer more upset by those tarnishing the reputation of the world's most popular sport.
"The kids in India, they're not that good or anything but the passion they have there for the game is phenomenal, it's really positive.
"That's why we all love the game so much, the passion that football brings. So it's such a shame you have all this other crap going on."
Rufer said he had never played in a game that he suspected of being influenced by fixing.
But the former Werder Bremen star did play against Steffen Karl, a German midfielder who copped an eight month ban for manipulating a 2004 game between Chemnitz and SC Paderborn.
"I actually knew him quite well and he was a respectable guy but then he came down to the lower leagues," Rufer said.
"He got talking with those people who were offering big money, and he then had the ability - he was a former captain and a very respected player - that he could obviously influence others.
"You can see, if you're not earning the income like you were before - he might have had a bit of drama happening in his personal life. Then it's easy, if you get offered €20,000 or something."
All Whites and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was not exactly surprised by the revelations, saying it would be "naive" not to think such scams were taking place.
But Herbert, who has been involved in international football since his All Whites debut in 1980, said he had never experienced any dodgy dealings.
"No I haven't. I think you'd be naive to think it's not happening somewhere in the world but it's certainly not part of [football]," Herbert said.
"It needs stamping out and good on them [investigators]. Whatever they find and need to do, it's really important to do it because it's not part of the game."
Similar scandals in cricket prompted the International Cricket Council to force international players to hand over their cell phones during games.
But Herbert said no such policy was in place for footballers.
"No, I've never even remotely experienced anything like that. We certainly haven't been involved in anything."
Football Federation Australia, which controls the A-League, yesterday released a statement to reaffirm "its commitment to protecting the integrity of Australian football against match fixing".
It said the FFA conducted an annual betting education program for A-League players and had taken steps to enter into "integrity agreements" with betting operators in Australia.
The FFA also had an agreement with Sportradar, an "independent world leading betting monitoring organisation."
"We are determined in our efforts to eliminate the potential of match fixing from football," said FFA chief executive David Gallop.
- The Dominion Post
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