RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A convicted match-fixer denied a report in a German magazine Tuesday that he predicted the result and details of a World Cup game.
Cameroon’s football federation said it was investigating the match-fixer’s allegations of corruption involving its World Cup squad and that seven of its players could have been bought.
Der Spiegel magazine claimed that Wilson Raj Perumal — the best-known match-fixer in football– accurately predicted hours before the game in an online chat with one of its journalists that Cameroon would lose 4-0 to Croatia and have a player sent off in the first half.
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And that is what happened in the June 18 match. Cameroon’s Barcelona midfielder Alex Song was red-carded before halftime for elbowing Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic in the back and Cameroon was beaten 4-0.
Der Spiegel's claims rang alarm bells because Perumal was convicted of fixing matches in Finland and suspected of fixing other games in Africa and involving African teams. He isn't averse to self-publicity, having recently published memoirs with two journalists as co-authors.
But in a statement, Perumal denied having predicted the outcome. He said a Facebook conversation about Cameroon with the Der Spiegel journalist happened three days after the game, not hours before as the reporter claimed.
"At no time did I make reference to four goals being scored or to a red card being issued," Perumal said in his statement sent by the authors of his biography.
"I am shocked and amazed that a respected magazine such as Der Spiegel would go so far as to fabricate statements by yours truly with the visible aim of stirring the row over match-fixing," he said. "I apologize to the Cameroon FA and to its fans if I inadvertently offended them; it was not my intention. I strongly believe that Der Spiegel should also do the same since they placed words in my mouth that I did not utter."
The Associated Press saw alleged copies of a Facebook conversation where Perumal and the reporter chatted about Cameroon. But the exchanges were dated June 21, three days after the game.
Cameroon "is on the take i think," Perumal claimed in the chat with Der Spiegel reporter Rafael Buschmann.
"They have i guess seven rotten apples in the team," he added.
But in his statement Tuesday, Perumal said he had no proof for those claims.
"At no time did I suggest that I had any way of corroborating or substantiating what was meant to be an educated guess based on my extensive match-fixing experience. Last but not least: at no time was I informed by the Der Spiegel journalist that our chat was going to end up in the German publication."
Buschmann stood by his story but did not immediately respond to AP requests to also share copies of his exchanges with Perumal.
"We firmly stand by our assertion that Mr Perumal wrote in a Facebook chat with der Spiegel some hours before the world cup match Croatia vs Cameroon, that the result of the match will be a 4-0-victory for Croatia and that a player of Cameroon will get a red card in the first halftime," Buschmann wrote by email to the AP.
Earlier, Cameroon's football federation said it instructed its ethics committee to open an investigation.
"We are strongly committed to employ all means necessary to resolve this disruptive matter," Fecafoot said.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter also confirmed a probe was underway, telling reporters: "Yes I have been told about this but let them do their work on this investigation."
The Croatia game was the low point of a disastrous World Cup for Cameroon. It conceded nine goals and scored just one in its three games and its whole campaign was overshadowed by a threatened strike by players over World Cup payments.
The match was also marred by an argument between teammates Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Benjamin Moukandjo that ended with Assou-Ekotto head-butting Moukandjo.
Cameroon's heavy defeat to Croatia wasn't a major surprise. It came into this World Cup having previously lost nearly half of its games in six previous participations in the showcase tournament. Its record was played 20, lost 9, drew 7 and won just 4. It also wasn't Cameroon's worst World Cup defeat: It lost 6-1 to Russia at the 1994 tournament in the United States and suffered another 4-0 loss to the then Soviet Union in 1990.