Whistlerblower In Cyprus Matchfixing Scandal Facing Backlash

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Whistlerblower In Cyprus Matchfixing Scandal Facing Backlash

A Cypriot football official who helped expose a broad matchfixing scheme says the country’s football association is trying to silence him.

Spyros Neofitides is the head of the country’s players’ union and a goalkeeper coach for first division side Nea Salamina, making him a major figure in the Cyprus’ football community. His commitment to Cypriot football is what led him to cooperate in an investigation into corruption and illegal betting in the country for The Guardian that was published last week.

The Cyprus Football Association was alarmed at the allegations and has now leaped into action. And they’re responding to the uncovered corruption allegations by… shooting the messenger.

Neofitides told The Guardian that he was told he was the subject of a disciplinary hearing to be held tomorrow on charges of bringing Cypriot football into disrepute. He is not required to be present at the hearing. If the charges are upheld, he faces fines of up to €5000 (about $5600).

Neofitides believes the Cyprus FA is trying to intimidate him into silence.

”At the end of the day the article has helped because it has focused attention on this problem but the FA’s move is an over-reaction that shows just how panicked people are,” the goalkeeping coach said in a telephone interview from the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. “The message they are sending is ‘we don’t want anyone to speak out about this issue’. [...] It’s a threat pure and simple. If players see this happening, how then will it be possible for me to convince them to speak out about it? They’ve accused me of slander. But I didn’t say anything bad about the CFA. I just said what everyone knows. Unfortunately it is very dirty. There is a lot of money involved. We are talking about millions and it goes very deep.”

An unnamed spokesperson for the CFA believes that Neofitides is nothing more than a reckless bomb-thrower and needs to be held accountable. They also questioned the timing and intentions of the Guardian article, saying the paper may have been motivated by UEFA politicking more than a genuine desire for reform.

Still, the article sparked a country-wide debate on corruption in the sport. Neofitides says Cypriot politicians are starting to demand answers from the CFA. The country’s chief of police also wants to sit down with him to discuss the allegations. Whatever repercussions he faces from the CFA, Neofitides doesn’t sound like he’s backing down any time soon.

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