SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A man who allegedly offered three Belize players money to fix a Gold Cup match against the United States was already being watched by international soccer officials, the team coach said on Thursday.
The players - Ian Gaynair, Woodrow West and Andres Makin - said they rejected the offer and immediately reported it. When a CONCACAF representative showed them a photo of a man being monitored for trying to fix matches in other countries, the Belize players confirmed it was the same man who approached them.
There was no immediate comment from CONCACAF.
''So this isn't just about our country or a one-time thing,'' coach Ian Mork said after practice. ''This is something much bigger.''
Belize is last in Group C after its 6-1 loss to the U.S. on Tuesday . It faces Costa Rica on Saturday and finishes group play on Tuesday against Cuba.
Mork and the players said Gaynair, West and Makin were approached this week in Portland, Oregon, where they played the Americans, by a man who had also been at their hotel in Guatemala City in June when they faced Guatemala in a friendly.
''He was wanting to become friends and come visit Belize,'' Mork said. ''Then all of sudden he also showed up in Portland. It was through this kind of friendship of wanting to support the Belize team. It was obviously part of a plan to target our players.''
Mork and the players wouldn't give specifics about the offer, referring questions to CONCACAF. Gaynair, a defender who scored Belize's lone goal against the U.S., said only that the man asked them to ''assure him that we would lose the match.''
West, a goalkeeper, confirmed the basics of the accounts he first gave to a Belize TV station this week, saying the man offered him money, but no specific amount, to ''sell the game'' against the U.S.
''We turned the offer down. We did what we were supposed to,'' West said. ''FIFA has control of that now.''
Mork said he doesn't believe the players were asked to fix any other games beside Tuesday's match against the U.S.
''We're just trying our best to compete at this level,'' said Mork, an American. ''I could see how they would be targets, I guess, but our minds don't really go there. It was a big shock.''
Belize is making its first appearance in the Gold Cup and has only two players who play professionally. The other 21 players have regular jobs and play in the semi-pro league in Belize in their free time.
Though CONCACAF pays travel expenses once the team arrived in the U.S., Belize had to raise money to meet the rest of its costs.
''Man, we did barbecues, we did telethons, all kinds of things to get where we are at right now,'' Gaynair said.
Mork said he was surprised match-fixing touched his squad.
''I was really proud of the players,'' he added. ''They did the right thing.''