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European Soccer's Master of Match-Fixing

How a gifted gambler built a European match-fixing empire
Ante Sapina in court during his second trial, May 2011
Ante Sapina in court during his second trial, May 2011Photograph by Sascha Schuermann/AFP/Getty Images

A few minutes’ walk from Berlin’s famed Kurfürstendamm, with its designer stores and stately plane trees, is an unremarkable, louche-looking drinking establishment called Café King. The bar stools and booths are black leather; the lighting is bordello red. On the walls are framed photos of assorted world landmarks: the Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin. Football matches play on the numerous televisions.

Berlin is an indifferent sporting city. In a soccer-mad country, its teams are league doormats that Berliners mostly ignore. Yet in the local sports scene, such as it is, Café King was once a hub. Players from soccer team Hertha BSC hung out there, as did basketball players from Alba Berlin and members of ice hockey team Eisbären Berlin (the Berlin Polar Bears). The cafe’s owner, Milan Sapina, knew the athletes and made them feel welcome. The place could get rowdy after games.