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Feb 6, 2013

Put: Match fixing 'has always existed'

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put has cast further doubt over the prevalence of match fixing in football, claiming authorities must accept it is a "reality" that "has always existed in football".

Put, who has led Burkina Faso to the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup in South Africa, is currently serving a two-year ban handed down by the Belgian FA after being found guilty of fixing two matches while in charge of Lierse.

But the Belgium-born coach has refused to accept responsibility for his actions, insisting he has been made a scapegoat for the sport's issues, similar to cyclist Lance Armstrong who recently admitted to using performance enhancing drugs while competing.

"Match-fixing has always existed in football," Put said. "If you look at cycling, at Lance Armstrong, it's always him who is pointed at but everybody was taking drugs. It's not that I've been doing match-fixing, not at all, but it has been declared in the media like this. I also played football and I saw a lot of things. I don't think you can change it. It's unfortunate but I think in every sport you have to face those things. That is reality but what can you do about that?"

"I accepted the ban because Fifa said I could work, so I didn't make any trouble in Belgium. It's the same like Lance Armstrong. It's the same. Everybody is pointing at Lance but without this he is the biggest champion. I don't think this is right. You have to see what's going on in football. There are a lot of big international players who are involved in match-fixing. I think it was worse in the past and these teams have survived."

Put's comments suggest that the issue of match fixing is much more widespread than the 380 games currently being investigated by FIFA and Europol.

The 56-year-old believes he was a victim of a volatile football environment in Belgium, claiming he was "forced" and "threatened" into match fixing.

"The suspension was a decision of the federation," Put said. "You always have to make an example for the whole world. We were all surprised because they took only one.

"You know there are more than 40 people. The whole of Belgian football was sick at that time. I was threatened by the mafia. My child was not safe. They threatened me with weapons and things like that. It's not nice to talk about these things but this is the reality."

"I was forced but 'fixing games' are big words," he says. "The team at that moment had nothing. It was in a very bad condition. There was no hope, no money, nothing.

"They made up a crazy story about match-fixing but other teams did the same. You have to see a lot of things and how it came about. It was not by our will. I am not a manager - just a coach.

"This is not a decision of a coach and a player. It is a whole team. If you want to fix a game you don't need 12 players. If you want to fix a game you can do it with one. That's what I don't understand - people didn't speak of the reality."