This year match-fixing has dominated the headlines and, apart from a brief cricketing detour, it's been all football. Incredibly, this is the fourth high profile book on match-fixing in football to come out within a year. We've had journalist Declan Hill's 'The Insiders Guide to Match-fixing', ESPN's Brett Forrest's 'The Big Fix', match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal's 'Kelong Kings' and now Singaporean journalist Zaihan Mohamed's 'FOUL'. For those that don't know (as I don't think he'd admit it himself) Zaihan is potentially the most informed journalist on match-fixing in the world. In fact, he is the only journalist that match-fixers and those within the premiere match-fixing criminal organisation want to speak to. Famously, Wilson Raj Perumal wrote letters to Zaihan to clear up facts about some of the fixing going down; Zaihan then published them as-is.
FOUL was published just before the World Cup to take advantage of the furor surrounding match-fixing leading up to the competition which trumps all others in terms of betting opportunities. Considering one can bet up to $2bn per match, every player and official now becomes 'bribeable'.
FOUL is a well-written, easy to follow account of match-fixing - from its inception to now - with a strong focus on Singapore. Whilst many other books have covered Calcioscommesse in detail or Robert Hoyzer, Zaihan only writes about his topic of expertise, Singaporean match-fixing. The three main characters are: his admirer, friend or muse Wilson Raj Perumal - the celebrity match-fixer; Dan Tan - the man no one knows nothing about; and, the original Kelong King Rajendran 'Pal' Kurusamy.
Known as Ah Blur and currently residing in one of Singapore's notoriously horrid prisons, the mystery that is Dan Tan is less so after reading FOUL. Facts are given, investigations outlined, theories proposed, though in truth we'll never know the real Dan Tan. Why? Because he wants it that way, in stark contrast to his former colleague Wilson and to a lesser extent, Kurusamy.
Zaihan effortlessly flicks between his own involvement in the story (at one point he reveals that Croatians were interested in his flight patterns denoting the level of exposure he was getting with his stories) and the actions of the major players in world match-fixing. He throws out interesting anecdotes I've never heard before (rare in the match-fixing world these days). Like Declan Hill and Brett Forrest, Zaihan has sources within the criminal organisation of match-fixing and changes their names to protect their identity. My guess would be that it wouldn't be difficult to work out the source - it's a small world. In addition, he obtained official interviews with some of the most curious characters which make the match-fixing world so interesting.One of the most interesting chapters is the 'Fight against match-fixing', which discusses some of the familiar characters involved on the investigation side detailed in other books.
The book ends looking forward to potential fixing (or at least a desire out there for fixing) in the World Cup; Wilson Raj Perumal still brags about his life; football is still corrupt; and, Zaihan's still the man.
Here's the link. Support the man who exposed most of what we know today about the fifth arm of organised crime.