Via Deadline.com, 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment are in talks to make a film based on the soccer match-fixing scandal perpetrated by Dan Tan and friends. The film would be based on the ESPN the Magazine story All The World Is Staged by Brett Forrest, which appeared in the World Football edition last fall.
Forrest’s story focused on Wilson Raj Perumal, the Singaporean match-fixer arrested in Finland last year, and Chris Eaton, the former FIFA security who quit his post to take a job in Qatar just as the match-fixing investigation was kicking into high gear. Chernin and Fox will also negotiate for the rights to Eaton’s story.
It sets up as a thriller, with Eaton’s character hunting down the notorious match-fixer. Selected text from Forrest’s story that sets up the bad guy, Wilson Raj Perumal.
From the ranks of the Singapore syndicate emerged the smoothest operator of them all: Wilson Raj Perumal. A handsome, charismatic former petty criminal and runner for the syndicate, Perumal found his calling as a globe-trotting fixer. He didn’t have to look hard for targets: Take 10,000 teams and multiply by the number of players per squad — then add referees, club officials and federation administrators. To a skilled fixer, almost anyone could be had for the right price.
Paying off refs was one way to manipulate results, but to achieve what fixers call a “five-star fix,” Perumal also needed to compromise players and coaches. In doing so, he styled himself as soccer’s Robin Hood, paying upward of $5,000 per fix to players in Africa, Central America and the Middle East, whose salaries barely fed their families. “The players I knew were living in atrocious conditions,” Perumal wrote. “Within six months their lives took a 360 [sic] turn.” Perumal embedded himself in professional leagues outside the global eye, becoming so well connected that, according to a source in Singapore, he would field calls from coaches on the sidelines during games. Perumal boasted that he was “in better control of the Syrian football league than Assad was over his people.”
Here’s an excellent infographic rounding up some of Wilson Raj Perumal’s crimes, crimes which will certainly be at the heart of the film.
The good guy, Chris Eaton, was eventually ushered out of FIFA, likely due to spotlight his work was taking from Sepp Blatter and his cronies. Forrest painted him as the Wild West sheriff of the soccer world.
A policeman for more than 40 years, Eaton is dogged, antipolitical and rule-bound. And at age 60, he has the energy of a man half his age. His monthly itinerary is a checkerboard of international takeoffs and landings. When he sleeps is unclear. With a mustache that runs long and wide and out-of-date, Eaton resembles Wyatt Earp, the one man who could establish justice on the range. “I quite would have liked that,” Eaton says. “There are a lot of people that need shooting on the edge of the corral.”
The screenwriter attached to the project is Duncan Brantley, best known for the completely forgotten George Clooney movie Leatherheads, a film about old-timey American football. No word on whether intrepid soccer anti-corruption journalist Declan Hill will be included, but count this as the first vote that he most certainly should.
Although the project is far from the casting stage, it’s hard not to imagine the actors that might be in this film. So who plays the principals? Geoffrey Rush as Chris Eaton? Irrfan Khan as Wilson Raj Perumal?