Friday, November 20, 2015

Get it fixed


Is match-fixing, which has become a global menace in football, being swept under the carpet in Malaysia?
Not a week goes by without insinuations, whether at home or abroad, of matches being fixed. Although no concrete proof of this mischief ever surfaces, betting trends and results indicate manipulation.
And the fact that Malaysians have been linked and even arrested in connection with match-fixing overseas leads to suspicions that they may be involved in local football as well.
Singapore has made football betting legal but it keeps a close eye on the activity and makes arrests from time to time, prosecuting the errant.
Malaysia, however, has taken a lax stand. Or least that is the impression we get because we hardly ever hear of offenders being hauled up.
Even Malaysia’s 10-0 drubbing at the hands of United Arab Emirates and 6-0 by Palestine in the World Cup qualifier did not see our football authorities investigate.
Instead, in a written parliamentary reply by the Youth and Sports Ministry (prepared by the National Sports Council) to a question from the opposition on Malaysia’s 10-0 loss, the reason given was: “The national football squad Harimau Malaya was too tired after playing a slew of both friendly and local matches before their game.
“Several weakness were identified. Among others, fitness level was low during the defeat due to tight schedules, including international friendlies.”
Interestingly, when the national team went for a friendly match in Muscat, Oman, in March and arrived two days prior to the fully sponsored match by the Oman FA, they were more interested in having a sumptuous dinner at a Malaysian restaurant on the first day and another dinner at the Malaysian ambassador’s resident, before going down 6-0 on match day, having undergone minimum training.
Before the return leg match against UAE on Tuesday, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the demise of Malaysian football can be blamed, in part, on continuing problems with match-fixing, which was the final nail in the coffin.
He said before winding up the 2016 Supply Bill for his ministry: “Match-fixing has been shackling national football since several years ago. But continuous effort is being carried out by the FA of Malaysia, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Royal Malaysian Police with the ministry to combat the scourge.”
What is puzzling is that the national team gets a drubbing in one game and loses the very next game with a decent score. A team cannot go bad overnight or bounce back with creditable results in another. Inconsistency arouses suspicions of what is going on with the team.
During the June Sea Games in Singapore, a bookie was arrested, charged and convicted for bribing a Timor Leste official to arrange for his team to lose to Malaysia.
Whether FA of Malaysia saw the need to pursue the matter on the Malaysian side is a mystery.
How much is being done in Malaysia to combat match-fixing?
Since the 1994 football bribery scandal, in which 126 players were questioned over corruption, 21 players and coaches were sacked and 58 players were suspended, many other cases have surfaced.
In Perlis in 2012, players admitted to having a contract with a bookmaker to lose matches, and in the same year, FAM suspended 18 youth players and banned a coach for life for match-fixing.
Kuala Lumpur FA were also in the middle of controversy of engaging a sponsor who was suspected of being involved in match-fixing and several players were implicated two years ago.
More recently, the Football Association of Penang (FAP) lodged an official complaint to the FAM integrity committee over the nature of T-Team’s 7-0 Premier League victory over basement club SPA Putrajaya in Kuala Terengganu.
FAM secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin defends the role of the national body in combating match-fixing by the fact that they have already set up the Integrity Committee since 2010 and had made it compulsory for every affiliate to set up such a committee in their respective states in 2013.
The committee is chaired by Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat and includes Bukit Aman CID director Datuk Seri Mohmad Salleh, Bukit Aman's Secret Societies, Gambling and Vice-Division principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Roslee Chik, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's Datuk Shamsun Baharin Mohd Jamil and Datuk Azam Baki.
The committee is responsible for screening, investigating foreign and local players and officials involved in the M-League to ensure that bribery or match-fixing is not involved.
Khairy also had said that several suspects and syndicates had been identified and were being monitored by MACC and PDRM.
But have they done enough and have action been taken?
It was indeed puzzling that FAM who earlier this month engaged Sportradar sports data technology and services provider - the agreement did not include their renowned betting pattern monitoring service
Despite calls from Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Ibrahim – urging the national body to utilise Sportradar's monitoring services, which raises red flags based on betting patterns for potential match-fixing, FAM chose to leave it out.
"We did not touch on monitoring of betting patterns in regards to this agreement. There were some discussions in the past ... it is something we need to look at further in the near future," said FAM deputy president Datuk Seri Abdul Mokhtar Ahmad had said when signing the deal earlier this month.
Even the Asean Football Federation (AFF) who engaged the services of Sportsradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS), which was used to monitor the AFF Suzuki Cup recently, had urged FAM to engage them to fight match-fixing in the M-League.
With such lack of urgency from FA of Malaysia, it will be little wonder if match-fixing in Malaysia will continue to have a field day.
Even Nepal FA had got their act together to combat match fixing and had players charged recently for match-fixing in world cup qualifiers.
Before the start of the Malaysia Cup competition, I had mentioned to a few friends that club teams – Felda United and PKNS – will have a grand run in the tournament. Any takers?

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​

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