Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Davor Šuker and UEFA have dismissed newspaper reports that Šuker, President of the Croatian Football Federation (HNS), is being investigated over his relationship to convicted match-fixer, Ante Šapina. ‘I have never been questioned by any public or private authority in relation to my alleged relationship with Mr. Ante Šapina and Mr. Mario Cvrtak’, said Šuker in an HNS statement. ‘It is well known that Bochum public prosecutor’s office has dealt for more than seven years and is still dealing with the fight against match-fixing in football. I confirm I have never been interrogated by the latter authorities on any potential implications which may linked myself to such kind of activities, simply because I have never played or acted against my firm fair play principles and love for the integrity of sport.’
UEFA also supported Šuker’s claims. “Davor Šuker has never been interrogated by the authorities in Bochum”, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino told media after a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee in Prague on Tuesday, responding to a report by German broadcaster ARD, which said that Bochum prosecutors have investigated links between Šuker and Šapina. “If Bochum prosecutors would have thought there was anything behind it, they would have acted – it is an organised witch-hunt”.
Šapina, a German of Croatian descent, was sentenced to five and a half years imprisonment by the Bochum District Court in May 2011 following an investigation into a gambling syndicate he headed, which was alleged to have fixed over 200 games. Šapina had already been jailed in 2005 for his part in referee Robert Hoyzer’s fixing of German games. ARD’s report was based on evidence collected in 2009, consisting of SMS (text) messages and intercepted phone conversations, which show that Šuker was in direct contact with Šapina. ARD also alleges that Šapina asked Šuker to place certain bets for him.
‘I would like to emphasise that I’m a man of football and I have dedicated my life to the sport I love. I had the opportunity to represent several top clubs at national and international level,’ said Šuker, who was the top scorer at the 1998 FIFA World Cup France. He explained that this had given him the opportunity ‘to meet and greet thousands of persons related to sport. Unfortunately, both cited Croatian fixers [Ante Šapina and another convicted match-fixer, Mario Cvrtak] were among this broad group. In any case, I can state emphatically that I have never been involved in any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a football match in my entire life.’
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