A football executive with more than 40 years experience with the same club has almost certainly talked himself into retirement.
Benecy Queiroz spent all of this time with Cruzeiro of Belo Horizonte, one of Brazil’s giants. He has been a backstage Mr Fix It, but in an informal TV interview he gave in January the troubleshooter shot himself in the foot.
He recounted to local TV channel ‘TV Minas’ the time when he bribed a referee. The details were confused; he named the goalkeeper and the coach (neither of them implicated in the fix), but the pair were never at the club at the same time. The astonishing thing about the interview, though, was the way that he appeared to assume that bribing referees was a normal and acceptable practice.
He was not prepared for the outcry. The club suspended him, and he was forced to backtrack. “I’ve been at the club for more than 40 years,” he said, “and I’ve never seen Cruzeiro consider participating in such a scheme [bribing a referee]. My declaration was inopportune. I’m here to reaffirm that it was an informal, light interview.”
It is not the most ringing of denials. But if he did not buy the services of a Brazilian referee, others have.
The most famous case recently completed 10 years. Towards the end of the 2005 Brazilian Championship, a magazine broke a major story. Edilson Pereira da Carvalho had been paid to manipulate results for a betting syndicate.
Edilson was a FIFA referee, and thus earning relatively good money. But he had got himself in financial problems, which made him easy prey. A colleague presented him to Nagib Fayad, a businessman looking to profit from betting on fixed games, and the scheme was born.
The internet betting sites noticed a pattern of increased bets on matches where Edilson was in charge. They did not inform the authorities – they were illegal and so preferred to keep a low profile. But a magazine caught wind of what was happening, chased down the evidence and went big with the story.
It had a decisive effect on that year’s championship. The 11 matches refereed by Edilson were all replayed. Had the initial results stood then Internacional of Porto Alegre would have been the champions. Instead the Corinthians of Carlos Tevez had a second chance at picking up some points they had dropped, and they ended the season on top.
‘Edilson’ for a while became slang for a fraudster. More than a decade on, he cuts a miserable figure. His marriage broke up, he has struggled to find lucrative work and he admits that he even thought of suicide. He burned all the tapes of the matches he had officiated – a move he now regrets.
“I fell to temptation,” he says. His story is a cautionary tale which highlights both the vulnerability of the referee and the risks of making the mistake.
Perhaps the only good side to the story is the reaffirmation of football’s unpredictability. There were games when Edilson was simply unable to fabricate the result he was being paid to achieve. The Benecy Queiroz story is similar – the point of the tale he told TV Minas was that despite bribing the referee, Cruzeiro still lost the game.