April 6, 2017
IT is disappointing that the problem of corruption in Malaysian football is still unsolved after all these years.
On Tuesday, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said several players representing states and clubs were currently being investigated.
He said they will be charged once MACC has the necessary evidence against them.
The cause for the malady this time is the same as it had always been – bookies, who apparently made offers that the players could not seem to resist.
The performance of Malaysian national football team, which was reputedly among the best in Asia several decades ago, went on a tailspin towards the late 1980s.
The public was at that time puzzled by the decline as the local football scene then was still very exciting for the fans.
That was until the bombshell in 1994 when it was found out that a large number of players and some officials of the top local league were in cahoot with bookies to rig matches.
Over 100 players, along with their coaches were detained to facilitate investigation into the country’s biggest sports scandal.
In the aftermath, 58 of them were banned from the sports for up to four years while for several others, the ban was for life.
Malaysian football never truly recovered from the scandal as the national squad continues with its poor performance except for the few exceptional spells such as when the team won the Asean Football Championship in 2010.
The sports, being the most popular in the country is not short of supporters with the stadium filled to the brim whenever the national team was having those few good runs.
However, those were few and far between, and whenever the patriotic fervor went sky high at the stands, it was always followed by a let down at the next national squad’s outings – some of the outcomes having been disastrously embarrassing.
The spectre of corruption never goes away, as fans wonder whether the continuously poor performance of their team has something to do with manipulations by the bookies.
Over the years, there have been several other cases of players taking bribes to fix matches. Although they were not of the same scale as the 1994 scandal, it shows that the authorities never really managed to eradicate the influence of betting syndicates in Malaysian football.
Despite past prosecutions and numerous warnings to players, the problem was not solved and in fact may get worse in future if nothing other than the usual knee-jerk reactions is taken to stop the bookies.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) under its newly-elected president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim should give priority to this problem if it hopes to do better than when it was under previous administrations.
A solid plan and its proper execution is necessary to rid Malaysian football of corruption, once and for all.
Failing to do so will in most probability negate all other efforts to lift the country out of the doldrums of its football fortunes.
It may be pointless as it is now to insist that players uphold the honour of their profession above all else, but if FAM could somehow assures them that it is worth more to be true footballers, then there would likely be hope that they could resist the temptations offered by the bookies.