BERLIN (AFP) - Germany captain Philipp Lahm has said the current corruption scandal rocking European football is damaging the game's image with politicians here calling on Fifa boss Sepp Blatter to act.
European police announced on Monday that they have uncovered the biggest betting scandal in football history with 380 professional games having been manipulated world wide and 425 referees, players and officials involved.
Europol has been investigating for 18 months and said World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, plus Champions League and several top matches in European leagues have been affected. Police believe a crime syndicate based in Singapore was liaising with criminal networks throughout Europe, adding that match-fixing has taken place in 15 countries and 50 people have so far been arrested.
Lahm, who will captain Germany in Wednesday's friendly against France in Paris, said the squad was shocked by the scale of the coruption. "Of course that surprised us," said the Bayern Munich star. "Something like that is obviously bad (for the sport). Any fan who goes to the stadium expects to see two teams meet who will do anything to win."
Europol have said in Germany alone, criminals bet 16 million euros (S$26.8m) on rigged matches, claiming eight million euros in winnings.
German parliamentarians have called on Blatter, the president of football's governing body Fifa, to act fast.
"Although Sepp Blatter talks about wanting to help in the fight against match manipulation, he doesn't follow his words with actions," said politician Viola von Cramon.
"Fifa needs to step up the fight against corruption and betting fraud, so they don't lose authority." Germany's most capped player Lothar Matthaeus said the global popularity of football leaves it vulnerable to criminals attempting to make money.
"Football is played around the world, and there is always some black sheep trying to take advantage of this beautiful sport illegally," he told German Sky.
"I have never been involved with such things because I have always believed in the positive side of football. But you can see what is happening all around the world of football." Germany has taken a tough stance on football corruption in recent years.
Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer was jailed in 2005 after admitting to rigging matches for a Croatian mafia circle and the German Football Federation (DFB) banned him for life.
In May 2011, Ante Sapina was sentenced to five-and-a-half years by a court in Bochum having been the leader of a gang which had bribed players and officials in matches across Europe to influence results which they then bet heavily on.
During a six-month trial, Sapina and members of his gang confessed to influencing around 50 matches across Europe.