More football players face charges

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Police in Oslo charged another player for the Follo football club on Friday, plus a player for the Asker club. Both young men were brought in for questioning on suspicions they were involved in match-fixing and receiving money for results believed to have been manipulated.

The arrests follow that of another Follo player earlier this week, who was questioned but later released because police didn’t fear he could tamper with any evidence against him. A fourth player, also for Follo, has been charged as well.

Following the money
Police investigators said at a press conference Friday that the Follo and Asker players were charged specifically with receiving money in connection with a match between the Follo and Østsiden clubs on June 24. A match between Asker and Frigg was also under investigation.

Police said a third Follo player was charged as well earlier this week, but they first revealed the charges on Friday.

“I can confirm that the two arrested today (Friday) know each other,” said Gro Smogeli of the Oslo Police District, who heads the section for financial and environmental crime.

She said police were concentrating on following traces of money that’s changed hands in recent weeks. Norwegian Broadcasting(NRK) reported Friday that as many as six professional football players are now suspected of taking part in match-fixing.

Kosovo-Albanian connection
In addition to questioning the four players already charged this week, police are also investigating Kosovo-Albanian circles in Norway. They suspect the alleged match manipulation is part of an international money laundering effort. Match-fixing has emerged as a major problem in Europe, not least in Germany, where police have spent several years monitoring both European and Asian groups believed to be behind the manipulation of match results and gambling tied to them.

As Norway’s latest football scandal expanded on Friday, national football bureaucrats and coaches agreed that none of the players charged would be allowed to play for their clubs while the investigation continued.

Shameful
“Match-fixing is the worst that can happen in football, there’s no doubt about that,” Kjetil Siem, beleagured secretary general of the Norwegian football association NFF. “It’s a direct shame that Norwegian football players use foreign betting firms to bet on Norwegian matches.”

He admitted that football leadership in Norway has been naive. “We haven’t believed this could happen,” Siem told reporters, even though he’d earlier said no one should be surprised that such scandal could hit Norwegian sport, too. Football president Yngve Hallén said the police must continue to do their job while sports leaders would “support the clubs in a difficult time. This evil will not be allowed to destroy football or athletics.”

The head of Asker’s club said he was “shocked” by the charges filed against an Asker player who was expected to take part in a match this weekend. Follo Chairman Ole Bjørn Fausa was also severely shaken once again, but believes he and his colleagues have met the challenges as best they could. He claimed the three players involved have not “grown up” in the Follo milieu. None of those charged was publicly identified.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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