10 of the biggest cheats in football

Rivaldo clutches his face, despite being hit in the leg, during Brazil's 2002 FIFA World Cup group stage match against Turkey. (Getty) Source: AFP

Perth Glory's season hangs in the balance as its fight with Football Federation Australia over sanctions for breaching the salary cap enters appeals territory. Should Glory's attempts to play in the knockout stuff fail, it will be kicked out of the finals and fined $269,000. The punishments may be ground-breaking in the A-League, but they're small fry compared to some of football's biggest cheating scandals.

Here are 10 of the best, or worst, depending how you look at it.

10 The Whistle Mafia

Not to be confused with the ‘golden whistle’ scandal which plagued Portuguese football a year earlier, "The Whistle Mafia" scandal of 2005 involved two top Brazilian referees being paid wads of cash to influence the outcome of games in the football-mad South American country. Referees Edilson Pereira de Carvalho and Paulo Jose Danelon were paid by outside investors to use their whistles for evil to affect the result of 11 top flight matches, four second division matches and a suspected two Paulista Championship matches. Both ‘whistle blowers’ were banned for life in the messy fallout from the affair.

9 Italian betting scandal 2011

Perhaps not on the scale of Calciopoli, which gets its own section below, but for the second time in half a dozen years, Italian football was thrown into the harsher glare of the world’s attention when a lower league match-fixing operation was exposed in 2011. In total, a staggering 21 lower division clubs, including then-Serie A aspirants Sienna and Atalanta, were handed a range of sanctions from minor points deductions to fines.

8 Galactic-oh nos

When French police dug up an envelope full of francs in the backyard of Valenciennes player Christophe Robert in 1993, they uncovered the ‘smoking gun’ in one of football’s most scandalous episodes. Robert alleged that he and team-mate Jorge Barrachaga were offered a bribe by Marseille - the reigning European champion - midfielder Jean-Jacques Eydelie and general manager Jean Pierre Berenes to throw what was the league-deciding game. Marseille, a team of galacticos put together by flamboyant owner Bernard Tapie and featuring the likes of Eric Cantona, Didier Deschamps and Rudi Voller, won the match 1-0. That tainted league title would be the last thing it won for a while. It was stripped of its 1992-1993 championship, relegated to the second division and barred from all European competition, denying it the right to defend its 1993 UEFA Champions League title. It didn't return to the top flight until 1996, when it was a shadow of its glittery former self.  

Good Friday betting scandal

It may have been Good Friday, but on 2 April, 1915, it was a bad day for football. Set against the backdrop of World War I, which had been going on for eight months, seven Liverpool and  Manchester United players were found to have influenced the result of the match - a 2-0 win to the Red Devils - to benefit financially. Amid rumours players had met in pubs to discuss the fix beforehand, the result spared 18th-placed United from relegation and would have resulted in Chelsea getting the chop had the league not been expanded by two clubs for the next season. Conspiracy theorists had a field day, claiming the old rivals had planned to eliminate the London club. Most of the players involved received bans before being shipped off to fight in the war. By the time the war ended, the majority of them were back playing.

6 Clowning around

Like blue bottles in a howling north-easter, the ugly spectre of match-fixing is never far from the surface of football. Two years ago it stung the game in Australia when five members of the Victorian National Premier League club Southern Stars were charged with actions that could corrupt a betting outcome. A sixth man, ex-professional clown Segaran 'Gerry' Subramaniam, was given a year in jail for acting as a messenger between players from the club and an international betting syndicate. Last year two of the club’s English players, both in Australia during their off-seasons, were banned from football worldwide by FIFA. Southern Stars was fined $10,000, kicked out of the NPL and docked eight premiership points.

5 Chicken-gate

Mexico’s 2011 Gold Cup campaign was thrown into turmoil when five of its players tested positive to performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol, including goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who would later star for El Tre in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Team officials called ‘fowl’ play, blaming the positive test on dodgy chicken and adding their lot to the list of sport cheats' lamest ever excuses. The embarrassment caused was brief, as Mexico - led by Javier hernandez and Giovanni Dos Santos - won the tournament, sans fried bird-loving steroid enthusiasts.  

4 Hoyzer's howler

After being registered as a referee in 2001 Hoyzer made a rapid ascent up the German football divisions, culminating in his being listed to officiate 2.Bundesliga matches in 2004. It was at the end of that season that he was found to have influenced a cup match between Bundesliga outfit Hamburg and then-regional team Paderborn. HSV took a 2-0 lead, prompting Hoyzer to send off its star striker and dish out a couple of penalties to the underdog, which won 4-2.

Hoyzer initially denied any wrong-doing, before 'fessing up and being found to have links with Croatian mafia types. The DFB banned betting on matches for the 2005-2006 season and ruled that referees would be appointed just four days before a match.

Calciopoli 2006

It was the scandal that ripped apart Italian football and it started when Italian police uncovered an elaborate network of match-fixing in both the Serie A and Serie B. Prestigious clubs, including AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina, were exposed in the elaborate ruse, which involved referees being used to influence the outcome of matches. The hardest hit was the jewel in the crown of Italy, Juventus, which was relegated to Serie B, stripped of its 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 titles, kicked out of the 2006-2007 UEFA Champions League and forced to play three matches behind closed doors. Fiorentina was also barred from Europe that year, while Milan lost 30 competition points.

Rivaldo dive 2002

That combustible feeling you get when you see a Neymar or a Ronaldo throw themselves to the ground in agony at the slightest of touches from an opponent? Multiply that by 10 and you're getting close to how Turkish fans felt after their nation's match against Brazil in the group stage of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Brazil's Rivaldo became the first player to be charged with simulation after he was hit in the leg with a ball kicked by Hakan Unsal towards the end of the game. Unsal, already on a yellow, was sent off as Rivaldo grabbed his face and writhed on the ground like a university funding cuts protestor who's been given half a can of mace square in the eyes. Rivaldo was fined $7350 for the outrageous, albeit gold Logie-worthy, acting display, which was enough to fool referee Kim yong-joo, but no one else.

1 Diego Maradona’s hand of god

The irony is not lost on anyone. Arguably the greatest player ever to lace on a boot’s most talked-about moment came thundering off his hand and into the net for Argentina, giving it a 1-0 lead over England in the quarter-final of the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

Maradona’s second match-sealing goal that day was simply sublime.

The Argentine wizard used his powers for good to beat five players and stroke the ball home with the correct part of his anatomy. It was everything beautiful and ugly about the South American legend, wrapped up in arguably the most talked-about 90 minutes in the game’s history.