Unprofessional Foul


January 10, 2011

Superman Crashed

He's no Clark Kent

Before departing this life, Rick James once mentioned his problems with illicit drugs. If the addiction-addled Super Freak had been a professional footballer, he might also have had something to say about gambling.

A frank admission of participation of attempted match-fixing by a former 2.Bundesliga player added a bit of a human element to the ongoing investigation in Bochum. Rene Schnitzler—a former striker for FC St. Pauli when the club was still in the German 2nd division—confessed to a German weekly that he was paid  €100,000 to fix 5 league matches in the 2008 season.

The player once nicknamed “Superman” for pulling off his jersey and showing his love of the man from Krypton after scoring a goal also named names familiar with the Bochum prosecutors. Schnitzler stated that his deal was with a devil from the Netherlands he knew only as “Paul.”

The Paul in question is professional gambler Paul Rooij—who in possible connection to Ante Sapina—is suspected of orchestrating the largest match-fixing ring in continental European football.

The ongoing trial and Schnitzler’s confession highlights a primary reason for the ease with which Sapina and his syndicate were able to put the fix in on so many matches. Witnesses in the trial reveal that prime targets were gambling-addicted players. As Schnitzler admitted, since the age of 18, “there has hardly been a day when I did not bet.”

Schnitzler’s further comments were that he thought 70-80% of his fellow footballers placed bets on matches. Describing an incident during his earlier days with Bayer 04 Leverkusen, he stated that in the airport prior to a match with Legia Warsaw he and his fellow Bayer mates all threw money into a hat. He didn’t go into detail as to whether these players were betting on the very match they were about to play and he didn’t accuse any teammates of fixing their own matches.

At least, he hasn’t thrown any other players under the bus yet.

See, Schnitzler apparently still owes €50,000 in gambling debts to Rooij and the Dutchman has now filed suit against Schnitzler for recovery. One suspects that Schnitzler’s admission now might have less to do with coming clean and more to do with shifting prosecutors’ gaze onto Rooij in an attempt to void his outstanding debts to the Dutchman. If the lad can work a deal with the criminal investigators and provide more detail on associations between players and their handlers, Schnitzler might begin gushing to extricate himself from his own financial crisis.

Herein lies the hard-luck part of this tale. Schnitzler is only 25 years old and—after being a German U-20 player, groomed to be a Superman striker for Bundesliga clubs Leverkusen and later Borussia Moechengladbach—the forward now plays in the 5th division of German football. While unsure of the level of player wages in the NRW-Liga, one can’t imagine it matches the pay needed to cover this player’s gambling debts.

Upon hearing of the revelations, FC St Pauli’s club manager stated, “We knew Rene had problems and we had offered him help, but we were not aware they were so deep.”

Indeed, Schnitzler’s addiction is as shallow as the Pacific Ocean. And the German match-fixing scandal just got a bit sadder.

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