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What you may have missed earlier this year: multiple footballers charged in one of Brazil’s biggest matchfixing scandals ever 😳🇧🇷


🎄 Merry Christmas from everyone at the Plei App! 🎄
We hope everyone is thoroughly enjoying their holidays, and we thank each and every one of you for the continuous support. It never goes unnoticed! That being said, we hope you enjoy our latest newsletter issue, touching on a topic from earlier this year that went under the radar a bit.
As per usual, let us know your thoughts by replying to this email after you’re done reading. 📲

Dozens of Brazilian footballers collaborated with criminal organizations to receive a big payday. 💰

Bettors would place illegal bets for players to commit fouls and receive yellow cards. 😲

One of the craziest scandals in sporting history is still going on! Read all about it below. 👇

It all started in February 2023 when it was revealed that a criminal organization was involved in alleged attempts to manipulate scorelines and outcomes of different matches in Brazil’s second division.

Upon making this discovery, the Public Ministry of the State of Goiás (MPGO) launched a nationwide investigation, officially known as Operação Penalidade Máxima, which literally translates to ‘Operation Maximum Penalty’.

The criminal organization worked as follows: they would essentially hire members of various Brazilian professional football clubs to commit certain actions in their games. These players would be paid up front, and they would receive an even larger payout for successfully playing out these acts.

Investigators say that these players were offered between $10,000 and $20,000 to commit the acts.

If you’re not familiar with gambling at all, you’re probably confused as to why these players were hired to do this. When you bet on sports, you can literally put money on virtually any action to occur in a match. This can be the number of fouls that end up being called, a player committing a penalty, scoring goals, conceding goals, you name it.

What the members of the organization did was place bets for a specific player to receive, for example, a yellow card, knowing that they hired that exact player to successfully commit the act.

As you can imagine, the organization secured heavy payouts from the gambling sites since what they were betting on was guaranteed to happen.

Over 10 months later, this operation is still ongoing, but don’t let that fool you. Many players have since been charged, and a handful have even received lifetime bans from the beautiful game.

In this 34th edition of the Plei newsletter, I revisit one of football’s biggest scandals in recent history and fill you in on everything you need to know about this ongoing investigation. 👇

🔍 Lengthy investigations, multiple players indicted

Since Operation Maximum Penalty first began, a number of players have been charged for taking part in the scandal and collaborating with the criminal organization. Overall, over 20+ names have appeared in the investigations since February, but many have gotten away with lighter repercussions because of their full cooperation with officials, or because they never actually fulfilled or accepted bribes.

The operation has been moving in phases, with Phase Three having recently begun on November 28.

Phase One (Started on February 14, 2023)

The first phase began with the investigations of certain matches in which offenses took place. All the games are from the Serie B (Brazil’s second division).

  • Vila Nova 0–0 Sport Recife

  • Criciúma 2–0 Tombense

  • Sampaio Corrêa 2–1 Londrina

The alleged bets that were placed for these games were for three penalty kicks to occur - one in each match. Penalties were successfully awarded in the latter of these two matches, but none in the Vila Nova vs. Sport Recife encounter. As a result, the organization that placed the bets did not receive what would have been an estimated payout of 2 million in Brazilian currency.

The players investigated for their actions in these three matches were:

  • Romário (did not commit penalty vs. Sport Recife despite receiving bribe to do so)

  • Joseph (committed penalty vs. Criciúma)

  • Mateusinho (committed penalty vs. Londrina)

  • Gabriel Domingos (lended his own bank account to Romario to receive bribe payment)

Phase Two (Started on April 18, 2023)

These were the players initially named as part of the second phase of the probe (including the four from Phase One):

  • Eduardo Bauermann (center-back, Santos)

  • Gabriel Tota (midfielder, at the time at Juventude)

  • Victor Ramos (center-back, at the time at Portuguesa)

  • Igor Cariús (left-back, at the time at Cuiabá)

  • Paulo Miranda (center-back, at the time at Juventude)

  • Fernando Neto (midfielder, at the time at Operário Ferroviário)

  • Matheus Gomes (goalkeeper, at the time at Sergipe)

  • Romário (midfielder, at the time at Vila Nova)

  • Joseph (center-back, at the time at Tombense)

  • Mateusinho (right-back, at the time at Sampaio Corrêa)

  • Gabriel Domingos (forward, at the time at Vila Nova)

  • Alan Godói (center-back, at the time at Sampaio Corrêa)

  • André Queixo (midfielder, at the time at Sampaio Corrêa)

  • Ygor Catatau (forward, at the time at Sampaio Corrêa)

  • Paulo Sérgio (center-back, at the time at Sampaio Corrêa)

The following players admitted involvement but were not charged due to agreements with the Public Prosecutor’s Office:

  • Defender Kevin Lomónaco, from Bragantino

  • Left-back Moraes, from Atlético-GO

  • Midfielder Nikolas Farias, from Novo Hamburgo-RS

  • Striker Jarro Pedroso, from Inter-SM

The second phase also began with investigations into the criminal group’s conduct in 13 other fixtures in which the above players were involved, which officially expanded the scandal to include the Brazilian top-flight as well as other cup tournaments. These matches were:

  • Palmeiras vs. Juventude (Serie A - 10/09/2022)

  • Juventude vs. Fortaleza (Serie A - 17/09/2022)

  • Ceará vs. Cuiabá (Serie A - 16/10/2022)

  • Sport vs. Operário- PR (Serie B - 28/10/2022)

  • Goiás vs. Juventude (Serie A - 05/11/2022)

  • Bragantino vs. América-MG (Serie A - 05/11/2022)

  • Santos vs Avaí (Serie A - 05/11/2022)

  • Botafogo vs. Santos (Serie A - 10/11/2022)

  • Palmeiras vs. Cuiabá (Serie A - 06/11/2022)

  • Bragantino vs. Portuguesa (Campeonato Paulista - 21/01/2023)

  • Guarani vs. Portuguesa (Campeonato Paulista - 08/02/2023)

  • Bento Gonçalves vs. Novo Hamburgo (Campeonato Gaúcho - 11/02/2023)

  • Caxias vs. São Luiz-RS (Campeonato Gaúcho - 12/02/2023)

Out of all the names we mentioned previously, the following players were banned permanently from football and handed hefty fines for their actions.

  • Romário

  • Gabriel Tota

  • Matheus Gomes

  • Ygor Catatau

All other players listed have either already received temporary bans and/or fines or have ongoing cases.

🌎 International reach

It wasn’t long before the scandal reached new levels of controversy.

On May 10, ESPN broke the news that a Brazilian player in the MLS was also allegedly involved with a criminal organization as well. This player is Max Alves, who most recently played for the Colorado Rapids and, although indefinitely suspended, is still under contract.

It was reported that an unnamed organization paid Alves BRL 60,000 (equivalent to $12,000 USD) to receive a yellow card in a match against the LA Galaxy on September 17, 2022. Two minutes after being substituted into the game, he committed a foul, and received the yellow.

Suspicious much?

The same report - handled by the MPGO - also noted that Alves even went as far as connecting a fellow Brazilian player also in the MLS (former Houston Dynamo fullback Zeca) to the criminal group. Fortunately, Zeca never committed any actions and was never named in the probe.

Alves remains suspended by the Rapids to this day, and not much regarding his particular case has been said. However, his agent did publicly say that he would be returning to Brazil to testify and cooperate with prosecutors when the time comes.

⚽ What it means for Brazil and world football

Although this scandal is easily one of the most prominent in recent times within not just football but the sporting world as a whole, it’s just another on a long list of events that bring to light the dark side of the beautiful game.

Let me make it clear before I go any further: match-fixing has no place in football or in any other sport. Scenarios like this, especially in a country that lives and breathes football and has been the birthplace of absolute legends of the game for generations do nothing but give those that already criticize and talk down on the game we all love reason to be right.

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably heard from those that prefer American football or baseball that soccer players flop too much and exaggerate fouls way too much. As a result of that, they say that the sport is too soft or not manly enough.

So, if footballers were to keep flopping and pulling off such moves, wouldn’t that continue to prove their point?

Using this same logic, we can’t let scandals such as Operation Maximum Penalty tarnish the image and status that football holds in society. There are people out there, like the criminals involved in placing these illegal bets, that only see football as a profitable experience, not as a supreme form of entertainment.

Of course, there’s not much that can be done to fully prevent match-fixing from happening. At the end of the day, criminals will commit crimes, no matter how much we try to crack down and prevent these situations before they happen. They’ll always find a way. After all, it’s what they’re good at.

What we can do is bring these types of stories to the light more often and expose those that commit crimes - not just against the law but against the beautiful game - as soon as possible. That way, the world can better understand that those that attempt to hurt football aren’t actually in love with the game.

We need more awareness and, better yet, more careful reporting on stories like these. Time and time again, scandals like these go under the radar, or maybe they are reported on, but they quickly fade away.

Everyone has a part to play in this, not just sports media. Even you (that’s reading this right now) have a role. If you truly love this game, then you hate these sorts of scandals and wish they didn’t happen as much as the rest of us do.

We all share the same love, and with that love comes a responsibility to protect the integrity of the beautiful game, no matter the cost.

That’s it for the 34th edition of our newsletter! 😅
How did you like it? Let me know by messaging me via email at [email protected] or by sending us a text. 📲
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