While the general consensus is to applaud the the FA of Malaysia for their announcement that they have banned 18 youth players raging from two to four years and a coach meted out a lifetime ban, but there are many questions felt answered.
And to make matters worse, the manner in which this news of the ban surfaced is even more puzzling.
It is learnt that the announcement was never in the agenda of the Press Conference after the executive meeting yesterday.
It was only after the reporter from New Straits Times asked what has been done since the coach and bookie were brought to court last year for their involvement in the President's Cup, that the news of the ban of 18 players and coach surfaced.
While all major newspapers went front page with the story, it has left me with many questions unanswered in the report.
I will use the report in the New Sunday Times today to ask the questions.
New Sunday Times front-paged story today
18 footballers banned
TO show it is serious about tackling match-fixing, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) yesterday banned 18 youth team players for two to five years while a former Negri Sembilan coach was given a lifetime suspension.
Six players each from the 2011 Negri Sembilan, T-Team and Muar Municipal Council Under-21 President’s Cup squads were found to have been involved in illegal football activities, in connection with three people charged with bribing players last year.
One of the three charged was Yusarman Yusof, the then Negri Under-21 coach, who was given the lifetime ban. The others were bookies Rajendran Kurusamy, 51, a Singaporean national; and Sufian Ngah, 41, who were charged last year with bribing six
T-Team players to fix matches against Selangor, Negri and Pahang in the President’s Cup.
The bans mean the 18 players are barred from all official football-related activities.
Their names, which will be made public on Wednesday after the necessary paperwork, will be circulated to all state affiliates and clubs.
Why is the names only announced on Wednesday? Is this because it was never on the agenda yesterday to make the announcement. And when it was disclosed, they did not have details like the names and the number years they have been banned?
Does this mean that the respective State FAs have also not been informed about the banned players?
If that is the case, does it mean that the 18 players could well be registered with either President's Cup or M-League teams for this season.
And if that is the case, what happens after the announcement of the names on Wednesday. If any of these players have been registered by participating teams, then their names will have to be deleted. Will replacements be allowed? Why create such a mess into the season. Could all this have been sorted out before the new season began?
Success on the pitch apparently did not preclude players from taking bribes as in the case of Muar MC, which reached the President’s Cup final last year before losing 2-1 in extra-time to Kelantan.
Negri and T-Team were eliminated in the preliminary round.
FAM began investigations into the President's Cup players in December and the evidence and recommendation of action were finalised last month before being presented to the executive committee yesterday.
Began investigations in December? Six months after the coach and bookie were charged in court and seven months after Negri FA lodges a police report on suspected match-fixing involving its President's Cup squad?
Did FA of Malaysia not see the urgency to get to the root of the matter and had to wait for six months to launch their investigations into President's Cup squads of Negri Sembilan, T-Team and Muar Municipal Council?
FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said bribery in football was a serious matter and the association would not let up in hunting crooked players, coaches or officials, with the assistance of enforcement authorities.
"This proves that we are serious about combating match-fixing. Let this be a lesson to all players, coaches and officials involved in FAM-sanctioned tournaments," said Tengku Abdullah after chairing the executive committee meeting which endorsed the suspensions here yesterday.
Tengku Abdullah said the vetting, transparency and monitoring committee, headed by former Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat, and comprising members independent of FAM and its affiliates, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), would be given broad powers to act against those suspected of fixing matches.
"In future, this committee will be given the names of players, coaches and officials found to be involved in unwanted activities by the police or MACC. They can blacklist the players and refuse a licence to play, and similarly for the officials.
"I hope everyone takes football seriously and only those sincere in competing and developing the sport in Malaysia are given the chance to be involved in football," said Tengku Abdullah.
What about the "big fishes" - those who actually offer the bribes - the runners and the bookies? Is the Police on them? Will they be hauled up too?
In a significant development, international betting websites no longer carry live scores of the President's Cup matches after this year's edition kicked off on Thursday.
Is this really true. How this come about? Does FA of Malaysia have any control on international betting websites to prevent them from carrying live scores? Or is it just that it is early stages, since the President's Cup just kicked off last Thursday? Or has the heat on the bribery scandal seen them get off the radar? But M-League Super and Premier Divisions are still listed.
Betting on President's Cup matches, made possible by these websites, was identified as a prime reason why bookies targeted susceptible youth team players to fix matches.
However, in a possible setback to FAM's efforts, no hard evidence has been found against the nine Perlis Premier League players alleged to have met a bookie in Alor Star last month.
FAM general secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad said a briefing by MACC officers indicated that chances of securing convictions against any of the nine in court were remote.
"We had a briefing by MACC officials recently and they said they cannot establish a case for lack of evidence. The evidence is weak."
So there was smoke without fire? Is this a victory for those who were alleged to be involved? Will others be encouraged to take the same path?
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek described the development as scandalous and shameful to Malaysian sports. "There is a need to identify the root of the scandal."
There was also a report that FA of Malaysia will no longer tolerate late payments of players' salaries and has threatened errant state FAs and clubs a "three strikes and you're out" approach in a bid to combat the bribery menace affecting the sport.
Late wages is one of the reasons cites for players ending up in the clutches of bookies.
Good move. But by suspending the State FAs and clubs on the third warning, does it solve the problem of the players getting their salaries. Suspending the State FAs and clubs, could complicate further for the players being paid their dues. Unless, FA of Malaysia uses the deposits or the grants to pay off the arrears on behalf of the State FAs and clubs.
Let us just hope for the sake of the game in the country, that it will be all action and no more just talk from the authorities. Vigilance will have to be kept 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, to combat the menace. And indeed the State FAs and clubs have to play a bigger role in combating the menace and work closely with FA of Malaysia, the Police and MACC. FA of Malaysia alone cannot eradicate the menace.