Quill & Quire
One of the more mystifying aspects of soccer is how a low-contact sport that so disdains physical toughness has attracted a fan base whose violent criminality far exceeds that of those who worship, say, the gore-smeared titans of rugby or hockey. Everyone’s familiar with the hooliganism that can attend a European match: the shouted slurs, the drunken punch-ups, the wanton vandalism. But a much more covert assault on the integrity of soccer, and one that’s ultimately more threatening to its future, is the match-fixing conducted by powerful gambling syndicates. In The Fix
, Declan Hill, a journalist and documentarian who specializes in organized crime, spends four years attempting to infiltrate the cabals who bribe or bully players, referees, and managers into throwing games. He traverses four continents, and investigates everything from an under-14 girls’ team in Kenya to the kingpins in Thailand who allegedly fixed the World Cup. Along the way, he becomes acquainted with sinister men carrying monikers like “The Short Man” and “Mr. Christmas.” He learns of players being bought with Rolexes, yacht cruises, and exorbitantly priced call girls (or else murdered for their lack of co-operation). And he comes to fear that with the explosion of online betting, leagues the world over will soon be utterly discredited by corruption. All of this should be enthralling, but Hill’s writing teems with clichés, redundancies, infelicitous sentence constructions, and ramshackle metaphors. And there is, too, a lamentable dearth of telling detail. Oxford University, for instance, is “full of interesting history” and “fascinating people.” Fellow journalists from ESPN are “very, very nice guys.” A man in a courtroom is “Lebanese-looking.” It would be unfair to expect all sports writing to attain A.J. Liebling or Roger Angell levels of sublimity. But in a book whose subjects are chiefly mobsters and athletes – two notoriously inarticulate groups – there’s an onus on the author to make up the eloquence deficit with some choice words of his own. Here, that responsibility is rarely met. Die-hard fans will be unfazed by the inadequacies mentioned above, and will be satisfied by the rough tour through their favourite sport’s underbelly. But for those who are relatively indifferent to the charms of soccer, but never indifferent to the charms of a well-turned phrase, it’s best to seek one’s reading pleasure elsewhere.
--This text refers to the
“Declan has written a well-researched book of investigative journalistic brilliance. A book that deals with the unseen and often shadowy world of soccer’s match-fixing. . . . A world the authorities try to ignore; the effects of its existence swept under the carpet in the name of preserving the game’s image.”
–Shaka Hislop, ESPN soccer commentator and former English Premier League and World Cup goalkeeper
"Fascinating. . . . Part true-crime potboiler, part spy thriller, part academic discourse and part journey of personal discovery."
— Stephen Brunt, Globe and Mail
"A powerful investigative work…. The Fix
is a fascinating read."
— Ottawa Citizen
"Sensationa…. Fascinating…. [Hill] makes a good case."
— Winnipeg Free Press
"An explosive book."
— Daily Mail
"Declan Hill literally takes his life into his own hands…. [He] presents convincing evidence that even games in the 2006 World Cup in Germany were fixed…. Read this book and you'll second guess every referee's dodgy call."
magazineFrom the Hardcover edition.