WHEN South Korea’s captain Hong Myung Bo stuck his penalty into the roof of Iker Casillas’ net, the world sat up and scratched its head.
It was, and still is, one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets.
Guus Hiddink’s South Korea side had conquered footballing giant Spain and were writing their names into history as the first Asian team to reach the competition’s semi-final.
It should have been the greatest fairytale story ever told at the World Cup.
But something didn’t add up.
Instead of despair and desolation, the Spanish players were furious, they felt robbed and cheated… and perhaps they were right.
Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour and his Ugandan and Trinidadian assistants had disallowed two perfectly good goals during the 90 minutes.
They had regularly flagged Spain’s forwards offside and given phantom fouls against the European side.
Their complaints echoed those of Italy and Portugal who had also inexplicably crashed out to the host side in earlier rounds.
But their groans fell on deaf ears. Or so it seemed, until the lid on sport’s greatest corruption scandal was blown open last month.
Tales of bribery, corruption and money laundering continue to fall out of the FBI and Swiss police corruption probe into FIFA.
That fateful match is now under investigation, as it has been revealed that recently arrested FIFA delegate Jack Warner appointed the match officials himself after allegedly taking backhand payments.
In total, 14 delegates of the world’s biggest footballing body have been indicted and many more are being put under the microscope.
Allegations of bribery, match-fixing and money laundering have all been levelled at the footballing body, which claims to work purely for the love of football.
Two current vice-presidents and one former vice-president have been indicted and the FBI has announced that it will now be looking into Sepp Blatter, the man who presided over FIFA from 1998 up to his resignation last week.
But Spain can’t complain too long or loud.
For the Spanish representative to FIFA is at the heart of the scandal – not to mention the endless streams of corruption probes and bribery tales that encapsulate the current government, the nation’s banks and judicial system.
Under-fire FIFA delegate and former Spanish international footballer Angel Maria Villar Llona is accused of securing an illegal vote-swapping deal for Portugal-Spain’s bid for the 2018 World Cup with Qatar’s 2022 bid.
He also refused to cooperate with Michael Garcia’s independent inquiry last year, automatically putting a target on his back.
But the corruption within football in Spain does not rest solely at Villar Llona’s feet. It has been embroiled in recent scandal surrounding everything from TV rights to match-fixing.
In a shock move, Spain’s FA was among a number of UEFA nations to ignore a pre-presidential election pact and instead voted in favour of scandal-ridden Sepp Blatter in last month’s FIFA elections.
Despite UEFA president Michel Platini urging his European colleagues to snub the man at the helm of the most corrupt sporting council of all time, Spain’s delegates opted for the devil they knew best.
And perhaps that was because the Spanish FA is worried about the skeletons which may fall out the closet should Blatter be relinquished from his post.
But as fate would have it, Blatter resigned after winning thanks to media pressure and those skeletons have already started tumbling.
It has been revealed that Spain’s FA, along with France, is to financially benefit from the Qatar 2022 World Cup as an off-the-books financial deal was set up to back the Eastern bid.
That tournament, the 2018 competition in Russia and the previous tournament in South Africa in 2010 are now under close scrutiny with bribery allegations at the core.
While that fateful night in Gwangju, South Korea, 13 years ago, will no doubt live long and painful in the minds of Spain’s football fans, what is to come will no doubt be more painful for the game.
Many are calling for the change to start at the top, with FIFA, but the change must come from within football itself and Spain’s FA, like all national federations, must look in the mirror and remember why we love to call football ‘the beautiful game’.
The power of investigative journalism
AS Swiss police swooped in on a luxury hotel in Zurich to expose the biggest sporting crime of all time, one 71-year-old investigative journalist in Scotland was being lauded around the world.
For 15 years Andrew Jennings has been sniffing around FIFA’s corrupt-ridden coffers, trying methodically and persistently to expose the corporation for what he knew it to be.
While other journalists reported on world record transfers and Champions League finals, Jennings went after the dodgy deals and secret six figure bonuses casting a long and lingering shadow over football.
After a blossoming career exposing crooked cops, the Thai heroin trade and the Italian Mafia, Jennings turned his investigative eye to sport, blowing open the corruption case within the International Olympic Committee at the turn of the century.
Moving on to tackle FIFA, he set the ball rolling in 2006 with his book, Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals, and followed it up with a damning sequel in 2014, titled Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organised Crime Family.
It may have taken Jennings 15 years of campaigning before FIFA was held to account, but without his dedication and investigative instinct it may have never happened.
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