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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Footballers Charged with Match Fixing

Itar-TassValery Shantalosov in 2001
Police in Belarus have charged a Novosibirsk football coach, the former goalkeeper for the Belarussian national football team, with bribing teammates to throw games during the Euro 2004 qualifying tournament, Belarus' Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Former Belarus goalkeeper Valery Shantalosov, currently a coach for the second division Novosibirsk club FK Sibir, is suspected of offering cash to his Belarus teammates to throw at least two games in the qualifying tournament, a spokesman for the Belarussian Interior Ministry said by telephone.

The evidence consists of audio tapes of telephone conversations between Shantalosov and an unidentified Russian gambler before and after two games at the tail end of the tournament, said a spokesman, who declined be identified.

The gambler gave Shantalosov money to offer players to underperform in those games, the spokesman said.

Shantalosov was traveling and unavailable for comment Wednesday, a Sibir spokesman said.

"The coach continues to live in town, is not hiding from anybody, and continues work with the club," the spokesman said of Shantalosov.

The two games in question were against Czech Republic and Moldova in September 2003, after Belarus had lost five of its first six games and was already out of the running for qualification when it lost to Czech Republic 3-1 and to Moldova 2-1.

The players were easier to persuade to accept the bribe because, having been eliminated, they had nothing to play for, the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Shantalosov has been charged with match-fixing and could face up to three years in prison if convicted, he said.

Belarus has submitted no formal extradition request to Russia, as a Belarussian judge must first rule that there is sufficient evidence for such a request, the spokesman said.

All case materials would then have to be examined by the Russian General Prosecutor's Office, he said.

Shantalosov was the first ever goalkeeper for an independent Belarus, making his debut in 1992 following the break-up of the Soviet Union. As such, he is a highly respected figure in Belarussian football, even if he was seeing little playing time by the time Euro 2004 came around.

He played one game in the qualifying rounds, against the Netherlands, and did not play in any of the others, including the two games in question.

Eduard Malofeev, who was the coach of the Belarus national team during the qualifying round, said by telephone from Scotland that Shantalosov was "too honest" to throw games.

"I never heard anything about any bribes," said Malofeev, now a coach at Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian. "I have always held the wonderful people of Belarus in the highest regard."

Though he never won any major honors, Shantalosov, who spent most of his career playing in the Russian Premier League, was the best-ever shot stopper to come out of Belarus. He conceded 143 goals in his 362-game career.

He quit the field in 2005 and became a coach.

A spokesman for UEFA, European football's governing body, said the organization would investigate the match-fixing claims.