Bizarre: The Curious Case of the Fake National Soccer Team

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AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

There’s a great saying in soccer that’s sometimes heard when one side puts in a particularly poor performance: they just didn’t show up. But what if a team truly didn’t and yet the match still somehow took place?

On September 7, Bahrain took on Togo in a friendly match in Riffa and won 3-0. But afterward, Bahrain complained about the distinct lack of opposition on show. Head coach Josef Hickersberger described the game as “boring”, “a wasted opportunity,” and that, “they were not fit enough to play 90 minutes.” And then things took a serious turn: Togo said it never actually sent its national team to play the match.

World governing body FIFA has said that as it hasn’t received any official complaint, it hasn’t launched its own investigation yet. But the chair of Togo’s soccer federation, Seiyi Memene, maintains that the team was “completely fake” and wants FIFA to look into the mysterious matter.

So what gives? There are allegations that point the finger of blame at a “fake agent” who “sold” the match to the Bahrainis (though it should be stated that the official Bahrain view is that the agent who organized the fixture had always been “100% alright” and was co-operating with the investigations.) Possibly more likely is that the uncertainty arose due to turmoil within Togo’s soccer association — it was recently dissolved — and that the interim sports panel sent out a team of ringers. But whether this was intentional or not is thus far unknown. What is puzzling, however, is that if this was a fake side, how on earth did they not lose by more than three goals?