February 15, 2018
By Haresh Deol
CONVERSATIONS around the table often revolve about new signings, tactics employed by coaches and to a certain extent, the tiresome politicking within the Football Associations.
But hardly do we hear fans crying foul over corrupt practices involving players or officials.
It has been just slightly over two weeks since the 2018 M-League season kicked off. And allegations of match-fixing have quickly surfaced.
On Tuesday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed it is investigating claims that several Sarawak FA footballers were involved in fixing matches.
Sarawak FA lost 3-2 to Felcra in their Feb 10 match at Stadium Negeri in Kuching. Sarawak had been leading 2-0 before succumbing.
However, such claims are not new. In fact, it is turning into an annual affair.
Last year, two Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian Football Association (MISC-MIFA) were bribed to fix the match against Perak State Development Corporation on April 7.
Following MACC’s investigations, two former footballers – ex-international Khairul Anuar Baharum and S.G. Prem Kumar who played for Public Bank – were charged on April 28 with two counts of offering bribes amounting to RM20,000. The duo claimed trial at the Sessions Court in Seremban and their cases are on-going.
It was the same time FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim asked MACC to monitor M-League players, referees and officials.
The horrific match-fixing saga in the 90s saw over 100 players and officials banned or suspended.
Does the episode still give us the shivers? Or have we become so accustomed to corrupt practices that we rubbish such issues off by saying they are “nothing new”?
Without doubt, match-fixing has been shackling Malaysian football for years. It remains unclear how wide the corrupt web is compared to the nightmare in the 90s.
The M-League is still closely monitored by betting sites.
FAM has its integrity department and often holds meetings with other stakeholders including police and MACC. Several initiatives have been taken but how effective has it all been?
Perhaps match-fixing, despite it being a menace here and worldwide, is a boring subject to dwell on.
But it has huge repercussions that can even threaten a nation economically and socially, if it gets out of hand.
Youngsters, easily swayed and influenced by their corrupt seniors, are made to believe there is no shame in making a quick buck.
FAs are partially to be blamed. If players and officials are paid their wages on time and their welfare is taken care of, then we would not see footballers and officials being forced to take bribes to put food on the table for their families.
The sport, and fans, end up being the biggest losers.
The quality of play is severely compromised while fans are given the illusion that what they see is what they get – which is far from the truth. Their favourite team could have made it to the top, or crashed out of the competition, through corrupt means.
There are those who claim match-fixing is often heard when teams start losing matches, when officials are afraid their positions may be threatened by the poor performances.
Match-fixing is a big deal. The allegations by Sarawak FA are a big deal.
It’s high time the stakeholders and fans started talking about match-fixing and not forgetting the subject the next day.
If football gets it right, the sport could send a strong message to Malaysians at large that there is no place for corrupt individuals to manipulate others in a bid to attain their personal goals.
Let’s never stop talking about match-fixing.
Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter (@HareshDeol).