Simone Farina, a FIFA ambassador for Fair Play, last week spoke at an INTERPOL meeting of global academic experts to discuss Integrity in Sport.
The meeting was held over the 28 and 29 November and brought together around 50 experts from across the world who discussed how academia could play a role in preventing corruption in football through education. Farina paid tribute to the relationship between FIFA and INTERPOL on the matter of training, education and prevention initiatives to combat match-fixing and irregular betting in football.
Mr. Farina was offered €200,000 in 2011 to help his team lose by three or more goals in an Coppa Italia match. Addressing the conference, Mr. Farina hoped that his story would help others come forwards and report attempted match-fixing.
He said: “I frequently get asked: if I could do it all over again would I still turn down the offer and report my former team-mate to the authorities? To be very honest, it was not any easy time for me and my family. I often felt alone, and sometimes questioned my decision.
“I quickly realised its importance, however, after it resulted in the arrest of almost 20 individuals and well-known players the following month. I never imagined reporting the case would have the impact it did.”
INTERPOL’s Integrity of Sports unit was founded last year as part of a 10-year collaboration with FIFA to combat corruption in football. Mr. Farina made sure to emphasise that players who rejected match-fixing offers had a support network available to them, which is reinforced by INTERPOL and FIFA’s latest initiative.
He said: “Now, working with the INTERPOL Integrity in Sports Program and as the FIFA Ambassador for Fair Play, I am helping to spread the message to everyone in sport that they are not alone and should not be afraid.
“Rather, a network, which includes INTERPOL and FIFA, is ready to get behind you when you say no and report a match-fixing attempt or corruption. While I am honoured to be in this position, my vision is that one day the decision I made will not be treated as the exception, but rather the rule.”
Mr. Farina hoped that his work in new roles with FIFA and English football club Aston Villa would help future generations in the fight against corruption.
He said: “During my childhood, I was taught that sport was not just about a ball and a goal – but rather about building us into men and women of honour and integrity.
"Prevention starts with tomorrow’s athletes – children. In running programs for children, I focus on teaching them the same respect, courage, determination and teamwork I learned from the game in my childhood. All values which helped me to say no one year ago, and all values I believe will help them say no in the future.”