All Finnish-ed for Zambian match-fixers?
It's not every day that a nation's footballers get barred from playing in a country but that's precisely the fate awaiting Zambians in Finland - albeit unofficially.
For last Tuesday, seven Zambians were found guilty of selling out their team Rovaniemi Palloseura - popularly known as RoPS - as gambling-related match-fixing plunged yet another league into abject despair.
"We will never take any Zambians again - and I don't think any other Finnish club will ever take a Zambian player (again)," RoPS chairman Risto Niva told the BBC.
For the dented image of Finland's game, with 24 games judged to have been fixed, means that sponsorship and advertising revenues have already dropped, angering the clubs as financial insult adds to the injury of realising the corrupt nature of their league.
Finnish football fans have seen their national league ruined by corruption, with nine players convicted this year for match-fixing some 30 games dating back to 2008
The Finnish championship - known as the Veikkausliiga given, irony of ironies, that it is sponsored by betting agency Veikkaus - unwittingly became a target of Asian gambling syndicates because of its timing.
Running from April/May to October - to avoid the harsh winter climate - the league neatly fills the gap between the off-seasons of Europe's major leagues.
Yet despite knowing all this, it still seems fairly remarkable that global match-fixing's unwanted tentacles can still reach as far as Rovaniemi - a city (pop: 60,000) in the distant north of Finland and capital of Lapland no less.
But into Father Christmas' lair came gamblers looking for gifts and when a club based fractionally south of the Arctic circle is targeted for corruption, it makes you wonder if anywhere is safe from one of world sport's most dangerous threats.
Fifa's head of security, Chris Eaton, even suggested this past week that footballers from poor countries are being 'trafficked' around the world in order to facilitate match-fixing.
"It is only anecdotal evidence at this stage but it is clear. They (the match-fixers) often target people from humble origins," says the Australian.
"They will go to junior competitions and recruit ... players. 'I can get you a contract, or a game in Europe or in South America.' They will invest in the development of players and officials and then they expect payment - they want their cut."
There are widespread concerns that Africans players are more susceptible than most given their lack of financial resources, as Benin's German coach Reinhard Fabisch stated when revealing that a Singapore-based company had - through an intermediary - approached him about fixing a match at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
In the case of RoPS' Zambians, all were recruited by a one-time hero of the club - Zeddy Saileti - a player who spent some 15 years with the club, finishing top scorer on numerous occasions, and who had a 1994 Nations Cup final appearance under his belt.
But somewhere along the line, Saileti turned bad and his influence on impressionable youngsters - who the Lapland District court said took bribes of US$15-57,000 - was one of the reasons given by the court for the seven's suspended sentences.
The only man to go down was an infamous Singaporean who goes by the name of Wilson Raj Perumal - when not travelling on a false passport that is (the act which prompted his arrest by Finnish border guards in February).
He was given two years in jail - the court ruling that he bagged US$210,000 from his fixing (and his syndicate some 1.5m Euros for every arranged match) - and although the Finnish system means he may be free by March, football officials everywhere should be breathing a relative sigh of relief.
Fifa has linked Perumal to a conspiracy to 'fix matches in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and Central and South America' - but it's surely in Africa where his malign powers have been at their most brazen.
Not so much for allegedly taking a team masquerading as Togo's national side to play and lose in Bahrain, far more because of his role in Zimbabwe's 2009 tour of Asia - where the national team lost heavily to both Syria and Thailand.
Testimony from the internationals is that Perumal sat on the actual team bench, where he instructed players earning a year's salary in the blink of an eye when to concede goals.
On a recent visit to Harare, Sepp Blatter said that anyone found guilty of match-fixing would be banned for life but Fifa has been silent so far on the fate of the RoPS players (which also includes two Georgians) - and that of two other former Finland-based Zambians convicted earlier this year.
All are currently free to play - assuming any club will take such a toxic product - but is this the right message at a time when match-fixing is smothering ever more of the game?
Indeed, one Finnish FA official I've spoken to feels Perumal's arrest is just the tip of the iceberg - and such is the nature of the Singaporean's secret networks that another fixer will step in to his shoes, at the behest of the Mr Bigs watching on from the shadows.
But if this scourge of the game is going to be stopped, then surely Fifa needs to ban all those found guilty of match-fixing in Finland for life?