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FIFA to charge Antalya refs; Canada-Belarus expected to go ahead

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What will Canada do?

FIFA has now formally launched disciplinary proceedings against six match officials accused of helping to fix the last two international friendlies held in the Turkish resort of Antalya.

According to FIFA’s international calendar, Canada’s men’s team is to play Belarus March 29 in Antalya, which has become a hotspot for training camps and friendlies. Toronto FC opened its 2011 training camp there with three matches against European club-team opposition.

The Canadian Soccer Association, despite the FIFA calendar, maintains nothing is confirmed as of yet for March 29. What the CSA will say is that it is still waiting on paperwork to be finalized on a friendly that would take place in a third country. But, indications are that the game will go ahead as planned. The key difference? The games FIFA investigated had referees assigned by a private agent, not sanctioned by the natonal federations. Sources say that the CSA and Belarus aren’t using those agents for the friendly, that they are working with each other under appropriate FIFA-endorsed channels.

Antalya matches have come under suspicion because games there attract huge betting audiences, even though attendances at the matches themselves are tiny, as most people in the area don’t have any attachment to the teams playing. So, the suspicion has been is that money is made on the match-fixing side.

On Feb. 9, Antalya hosted two games; Bolivia vs. Latvia and Estonia vs. Bulgaria. Seven goals were scored, all on penalties. It sent warnings off in the FIFA head office, enough so that the matter was discussed at the same press conference in which FIFA awarded the 2015 Women’s World Cup to Canada.

“The proceedings were opened following an evaluation of all documentation and information received by FIFA, in relation to a possible match-fixing situation in these matches,” FIFA said in a statement released Thursday.

The Hungarian Football Federation has already censured three officials for traveling to Turkey to do the Bulgaria-Estonia game without official permission.

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