Friday, August 30, 2013 - The Malay Mail
While the die-hard football fans and romantics would like to believe that this was due to traditional Malaysia Cup rivalry and a burning desire to win, too many coincidences have raised suspicions in the football fraternity.
The coaches cannot understand the sudden drop in the form of the players. Some of them are even suggesting that certain players have played their last match for their teams. Others have complained of players failing to follow instructions or capitalising on chances, poor defending and goalkeepers making schoolboy mistakes.
Of course, it cannot be proved that the players deliberately played below their capability.
Already this whole affair has had a casualty but it is not a player. Selangor coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim quit on Wednesday after his team’s 3-0 loss to club side Sime Darby because he was embarrassed by the defeat. He took full responsibility for his team’s poor performance.
Also, Selangor FA deputy president Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad disclosed that he had received a test message that his team was going down 3-0 even before the match was played.
And this is not the first time a pre-match forecast has turned out to be true.
Johor FA president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and Negri Sembilan FA president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan too have come out to say that they suspect match-fixing by their respective teams.
Adding a new twist to this ugly episode is the insinuation that match officials are also involved based on some of their dubious decisions.
I personally received prematch predictions, which turned out to be true, when I was managing the Malay Mail FC, which competed in the Premier League for three seasons from 2000. It was a match against Kelantan in Kota Baru and there was a message on the whiteboard in the team’s briefi ng room before the match read: Kelantan 7 Malay Mail 2.
Another official and I were the first to enter the room and we immediately wiped off the ‘prediction’.
And despite the newspaper team taking the lead twice, we lost 7-2! Coincidence? At the time, I thought so. But as time went by, my suspicions grew. But it was too late. Our team was demoted to the FAM Cup league for the 2003 season.
Coming back to the present, Mokhtar has offered an explanation for his team’s dismal performance. He said he was aware that several of his players, whose contracts expire at the end of the season, were in negotiations with other teams or had been promised contracts with them for the new season. He said he believes this made the players lose focus on their game.
This is indeed generous of Mokhtar. But then, is this professional of the players? They demand exorbitant wages and claim that they are professionals, but are they following the code of ethics? Whatever it is, there is definitely more than meets the eye.
Is match-fixing rearing its ugly head again? Was match-fixing even addressed? Or have the authorities turned a blind eye, hoping that it will go away?
Time and time again, we have had such cases cropping up, involving even junior players and coaches in the President Cup tournament.
An expert from Fifa came to investigate match-fixing in Malaysia and his findings clearly showed that it was happening here. But his report was rubbished.
Mokhtar has reports that there was heavy betting on the many online betting sites and bets were placed on Sime Darby to win 3-0 and the payout was small. This only means that this was the favourite forecast for the match.
Maybe the FA of Malaysia’s integrity committee, headed by chairman Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat, can shed some light on the current situation.
It is a pity that the efforts to raise the standard of the game by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the chairman of the National Football Development Committee (NFDC), have to come up against such rot.
The eight-year NFDC programme recently saw the appointment of former international and Germany-based Lim Teong Kim as the project director.
However, the best programmes are not going to make any difference if there is even an ounce of suspicion that the beautiful game is not being played in the true spirit of sportsmanship and fair play.
The biggest losers must surely be the thousands of fans who flood the stadiums, paying for tickets with their hardearned money and shouting themselves hoarse each time their favourite team takes to the field.
One wonders if the Malaysia Cup champion for this season has already been decided by the invisible hand.