The Fix Was In: Fake Int'l Soccer Team Loses Match In Barain

This story in the Wall Street Journal would almost cry out for a Cool Runnings style film adaptation. A team claiming to be the Togo National Soccer team played a match against the Bahrain team has since been revealed to be a fake:

Bahrain's national soccer team needed to prepare for an important game. So it jumped at a chance to invite Togo, a small West African country with a highly regarded soccer team, to play an exhibition match.

At least $60,000 was spent on flights, hotels and other expenses, and in early September, the Bahrain team lined up against 11 players in Togo jerseys. The Togo players weren't as good as the Bahrainians expected, and the Persian Gulf team won 3-0.

In Togo's capital, Lomé, the Togo Football Federation was surprised not so much by the team's poor showing as by the game itself: On Sept. 7 the Togo team wasn't actually in Bahrain—but on a bus returning from an official game in Botswana.

TFF officials say the team in Bahrain was a fake one, which they suspect was organized by someone wishing to pocket some of the money spent on the event.

"It's quite annoying," says Togo Sports Minister Christophe Tchao. "We need to make this sport healthier."

Lot of head scratching over how "in the age of Google/Facebook/Twitter/etc." an entire national team could be faked. I guess my question would be, if you had to verify the identities of the Togo National Soccer Team on short notice, how would you go about doing it? Especially when, as it happens, a former coach and a couple insiders at the Togo Football Federation were in on the scam, something the WSJ glosses over in telling this very funny story.

The coach, for his part, has rationalized his conduct by pointing to the only mitigating factors recognized by the international community: race, poverty and redistributing wealth (in this case from rich Arabs to poor Africans).

Two days later, Mr. Tchanilé acknowledged having been behind the Bahrain game during a press briefing in Lomé. He said he wished to apologize to all Togolese, to Bahrain authorities and also to Mr. Perumal.

"Even if it's tough for me, I must accept [this ruling] in a sportsmanlike manner," he said.

Reached subsequently by telephone, Mr. Tchanilé declined to comment on his role, citing the ongoing probe. Still, he said, the Bahrain game had been a good deed.

"Togo's a mess, we have no proper soccer fields, most talented players drop the sport to work as taxi drivers," he said. "If some kids had a chance to play a game in Bahrain, where's the harm?"

No word on Mr. Tchanile's future as a community organizer.

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