Tennis´ brush with match-fixing and money - Part 1: Karim Hossam



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Tennis´ brush with match-fixing and money - Part 1: Karim Hossam

Karim Hossam was one of the best juniors in the world, with the ambition to go professional and participate in the most prestigious tournaments. He had excellent technical and athletic qualities, combined with a winning mentality.

Unfortunately, the match-fixing ruined his young career: he fixed his matches for $1000 before he was discovered and disqualified for life. BBC's Simon Cox and Paul Grant viewed confidential documents to understand to what extent the world of tennis has been the victim of the match-fixing scourge.

British police detectives, investigators on behalf of the Tennis Integrity Unit charged with investigating corruption around the world, suspected that Karim had rigged matches for illegal economic gain. It was June 2017 when the 24-year-old's career began his destruction.

Futures were not the most prestigious tournaments and with a rich prize-money. On the contrary: with little crowd and little money at stake, expectations were different from those of Wimbledon or Roland Garros. The Sharm el-Sheikh tournament, with prize money of $15,000 (what a tennis player earned by losing in the first round in a Slam - ed.) had already been won by the boy four times when he came back to play it in 2013.

Just at the age of 20, the young Egyptian had been one of the great hopes of African tennis, one of the best players juniors of the world, who were beginning to aim for the ATP Tour. The Sharm el-Sheikh tournament is just one of many events where players at the slums of the ranking try to make a living.

Karim was preparing for his match when another player, who didn't know very well, approached him and said: "Do you want to lose the match and earn a thousand dollars?" The same person had contacted him a few months earlier, at the ATP tournament in Doha, offering him the same amount to lose the first set.

On that occasion Hossam had to face one of the best players in the world, Richard Gasquet, then ranked 9th in the ATP ranking, three hundred positions ahead of him: "I have to play against Gasquet, I'm not here to sell a match," replied the young Egyptian.

But in Sharm el-Sheikh everything was different. Winning or losing made no difference, and that time he decided to accept the offer. It was the beginning of the end. To the inspectors, he said: "I accepted because I had never done it before.

Actually I thought he was lying to me because I didn't think certain things really happened." But it was not a lie and, after losing the match, Hossam was accompanied to a Western Union office to withdraw the money.

The people behind this operation made more than a thousand dollars, of course: "With this kind of confidential information, especially in tennis, you can earn a respectable sum. Let's talk about figures that can reach half a million dollars," said Fred Lord, anti-corruption director at the International Center of Sport Security in Qatar.

But what Karim hadn't realized is that he had just sold his career for a thousand dollars. "I wanted to play big tournaments, train in the USA, but I needed money," Hossam said later. Subsequently, he began to bribe other young players, using the same method that was used with him, to try to get more easy earnings and help not only his career but his life.

The investigators who followed the match-fixing cases focused their gaze on Karim until he was discovered and confessed to the crime. In July 2017, Karim Hossam was disqualified for life from tennis, but despite this, as revealed by some confidential files shown to the BBC, he was still trying to corrupt other players. An incredible story of how a young man ruined his career and his life.