Thursday, May 28, 2009

Footballers addicted to gambling

Polish football’s attraction to corruption is only matched by footballers’ addiction to gambling.

“Eighty percent of Polish football players gamble. Half of them visit casinos, the other half gamble on-line,” says Tomasz Hajto, a footballer from Lodz, who played in Germany and England. “Gambling is the main plague of Polish football. Footballers have replaced alcohol with roulette,” confirms Marek Kozminski, a footballer from Krakow, who played in Italy, quoted in the Przeglad Sportowe sports daily.

The game in Poland has been rocked over the past few years with revelations of corruption, with nearly 200 players, officials and coaches being arrested on match fixing charges. But could gambling be as big a problem in the game, resulting in ruined careers, broken families and worse.

Gambling debts were the reason why Slawomir Rutka, from the Korona football team, committed suicide.

Polish footballers are frequent guests at casinos. The members of one of the nation’s top clubs, Wisla Krakow even have their own VIP room in a casino, where they usually celebrate after victories. Football players also love betting and place bets on whatever they can: who will score a goal, how long it will take to reach a destination point, how much a restaurant bill will be. They also place bets on matches at bookmakers, although this is forbidden.

“Sport and gambling give an adrenaline rush. That is why football players in their free time often reach for alcohol, drugs, extreme sports or gambling,” explains psychologist Jacek Sedkiewicz.

To stop footballers from gambling, chairmen and owners of football clubs forbid players to enter casinos. But players find ways around the ban.

Three players from the Amika Wronki football team, banned by the club from gambling in Poznan, Wroclaw and Szczecin, managed to get their fix by travelling 200 km to gamble in Berlin.

Footballers addicted to gambling lose huge amounts of money, and as a result of taking high interest rate loans have enormous gambling debts. Wahan Geworgian, a player from Lodz, lost 130,000 zlotys (30,000 euros) during just one night at the gambling table. Mariusz Nosal from the Odra Wodzislaw club lost all his money and that which he borrowed, divorced his wife, broke ties with his family and fled the country.