Given that cricket is part of the national psyche, Indians felt hugely betrayed when the cricket match-fixing scandal first broke out in 1997. Cricketer Manoj Prabhakar blew the whistle. Suddenly, cricket matches became scams and cricketers and the betting mafia seemed linked. Though the International Cricket Council (ICC) has made huge efforts to stop corruption in the game, cricket lost a great deal of credibility.
The same has happened to football today, which is not just part of any nation’s pysche but the sporting lifeblood of the world. Investigators have stumbled upon a global betting scam run from Singapore. This is a huge blow to the image of the world’s most popular sport and a punch in the gut for millions of football fans.
With about 680 matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and the Champions League under the scanner, it is a day when the players most of all have let down the people who pay to see them play. An athlete can stoop no lower than deceiving those who repose their trust in him. While one can argue that athletes are only human, fixing shatters something fundamental for the sports fan: the belief that players are somehow above human shortcomings at least on the sporting field. Fans pay to see them play because what fans can do, sporting icons can do better.
Now football officials and authorities have a massive clean-up operation ahead, and no doubt given the scale of the corruption, it will take months to fully investigate. The fans may return given the lure of the beautiful game. But, it will be a different fan than earlier: less trusting, more cynical and certainly more skeptical. A little bit of that lost faith will never return.