London: Nigeria`s World Cup warm-up friendly against Scotland in London is reported to be the subject of a match-fixing investigation by police.
The National Crime Agency, which investigates serious and organised crime, is reported by the Daily Telegraph to have asked FIFA, world football`s governing body, to issue an alert over attempts to fix the game at Fulham`s Craven Cottage.
The match is scheduled as a home fixture for Nigeria, who are finalising their preparations ahead of the World Cup in Brazil which starts on June 12.
"We are liaising with the relevant authorities and will prepare for the match as normal," a Scottish FA spokesman said on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the NCA refused to comment, saying: "The NCA will from time to time provide operational detail necessary for public reassurance purposes.
"It does not routinely confirm or deny the existence of specific operations or provide ongoing commentary on operational activity."
The fixture is set to go ahead, with Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi telling Sky Sports News: "We`re not part of this. We don`t know anything about this. We`re here to play."
Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie, based in England with Premier League side Stoke, added: "This is the first time I`m hearing it. I`m with the players every minute, every day, we don`t hear of this."
"It may in part be catering for a type of need which, for
increasing numbers of people, is not met elsewhere in the increasingly secular and scientific societies of our age," Dunning writes in his book "Sport Matters".
Despite high emotions, deep hostility to rival teams and the often crushing disappointment that comes with defeat, football matches, overall, are unifying social events, the experts said.
Apart, that is, from outbursts of fan violence which they argue are rare given the huge numbers who watch games around the world every day.
In fact, sports like football developed at pace with civilisation and "came to embody the elimination of some forms of physical violence and the general demand that participants should exercise stricter self-control in regard to physical contact," Dunning said.
Added Ranc, hooliganism is more a function of social inequality than a product of sports rivalry.
"When you study violence in football, it has to do with people who are losing ground socially... People who are marginalised, ostracised, described as an underclass. It has a lot to do with the social climate."
Football allows people from different social and economic spheres to meet and bond around a common passion, experts said.
And one of the things that binds them is the sport`s perceived ability to create heroes like Pele, Portugal star Ronaldo and Argentina`s Messi, from nothing.
"The stories told in sports are not pure fantasies; individuals who were previously powerless really are elevated, they really do win fame and fortune by their own strength and are thereby allowed to play a role in society that is otherwise closed off to them," said Gebauer.
- World`s most popular sport -
These factors all contribute to the sport`s popularity.
But there is also the speed and skill on display, the excitement it generates, the fact that football is easy to play almost anywhere, does not require specialised equipment, and has relatively simple rules.
"Of course, other sports possess some of the characteristics listed here, but arguably only soccer has them all," according to Dunning.