No let-up in clampdown on match-fixing
Posted on February 26, 2012, Sunday
THE spectre of match-fixing has returned to haunt Malaysian football.
Back in 1994-5, a big group of offenders – 21 players and their coaches together with 58 others – were nabbed in a nationwide swoop. A structural post mortem was ordered in the aftermath and action meted out against the guilty parties.
Although only a few teams were named in the scam back then, more could have been involved but had most likely gone unreported. How many had slipped through the dragnet will never be known.
While the full extent of damage caused by match-fixing to the M-League at the time was hard to fathom, it was patently obvious all the same that the scandal had given football in the country a big black eye.
Now, the alarm bells are ringing again. Just when the football power-that-be thought they had the situation under control, the scourge surfaced to sell the nation’s number one sport to the devil once more.
Following a probe into a match-fixing ring recently, 18 youth players were caught and banned by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for two to five years while a coach was warned off for life.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek has slammed the scandal as a disgrace and called for police action.
The good new is that the Crocs are not implicated – unlike in 2008 when seven of the state’s Super League players were hauled up for questioning.
Shabery Cheek has also confirmed Sarawak is not one of the three teams now under investigation by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for alleged match-fixing.
“Sarawak is clean. I admire its integrity and I hope it will never fall victim to bribery,” the minister was quoted as saying.
As a matter of fact, the image of Asian football had taken a battering in recent years with corruption scandals in China and South Korea, the latter linked to the suspected suicide of a player.
Indonesian football continues to court a FIFA ban following a leadership election crisis, compounded by a bitter row between its association and a breakaway rebel league.
Match-fixing in organised sports occurs when a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result. It’s often motivated by greed and executed through agreements with gamblers or illegal bookmakers.
There are few whistle blowers – which should come as no surprise, given that underlings who tell on or double-cross the masterminds often pay a heavy price, including with their lives.
Most people can only wonder how fixing a football match is done. Experts say doing it without getting caught takes profound knowledge of human nature to convince players or referees to help get the right result.
The method of approaching these individuals is the very key to successful match-fixing. The perpetrators must be really good at manipulating human nature and it takes an equally good, if not better, watchdog body to neutralise them.
The sin of match-fixing is shared by both eastern and western football alike. It’s a curse that binds an otherwise opposing twain. And at the root of it all is the greed for money. In a way, it’s self-enticing because underpaid players tend to view a fixed match as a golden opportunity to make a “killing” – provided they don’t get caught!
Although legalised sports betting is widely regarded as an antidote for malpractices in football, it’s still something of a taboo in Malaysia, brought up mostly for talking shop each time match-fixing strikes, and would fizzle out after a while. Small wonder a lot of wagers go underground.
Is suspending players, guilty of involvement in match-fixing, for a certain period – say a year or two – an effective enough deterrent? Admittedly not because most experts agree it’s too soft to have any significant nature-changing effect on players used to being on the take.
On the other hand, the imposition of hefty fines, life suspension and even imprisonment may prove a stronger disincentive as it will put far greater fears in the hearts of players inclined towards wayward persuasions.
Match-fixing is a stubborn old scourge that will not disappear altogether despite the stringent counter-measures because it feeds off human greed.
Indeed, match-fixing cannot be completely eradicated – which explains why it keeps recurring. Where there are givers, there will always be takers and vice versa.
But we can take heart that action is being taken and will continue to be taken to harrass the match fixers and put them out of business.
Proper management of players, not forgetting, of course, referees and other important match officials as well, especially in terms of salaries, welfare and other merit-based perks, is perhaps the best weapon to keep the problem at bay.