Corruption is the bane of society and football bribery is no exception. Due to rampant match-fixing, the Football Association of Malaysia is showing public determination and courage destroyed the very essence of our game in 1994. It was a disaster from which Malaysian football has never fully recovered.
So it is painful to hear that the scourge of match-fixing never really went away despite all the efforts of the FAM and relevant authorities. The suspicions were there as betting is endemic in the region but we always hoped that the players would, by and large, be true to themselves, their team and the game.
Apparently, that was too much to expect of them. Apparently, some of them cannot be trusted with such responsibility. Apparently, they are all suspect and have to be watched like criminals. That is really so sad.
But it is clear that bookies will always try to influence the outcome of a match wherever football is played and likely to be wagered upon. Their tentacles have encircled the beautiful game the world over. From Singapore to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to Africa and South America, match-fixing is having a coruscating effect on football. Even the super professional and high profile European leagues have not been spared.
But that is no excuse for what is happening here in Malaysia. What hope has the game got if we cannot keep it honest. We might as well dismantle the whole thing rather than perpetuate a corrupt system. We might as well return to the amateur days of yore when players had to toil at a job and play just for the love of the game. We may well have to if that is what will take to keep them and football honest.
For, whatever their rational may be to take payment to throw a match, it is an act of corruption. An unforgivable crime for which have to be punished. That the lessons of the past, the public humiliation, the banishments, suspensions and even life bans, have, apparently, failed to serve as a deterrent so FAM are duty-bound to take even more drastic action.
It is FAM’s responsibility to preserve the sanctity of the game and do whatever necessary to purge it of everything, and anything, that taints the game. It is no longer enough to say that we have had our suspicions but not the evidence to act. FAM have made no significant initiative to directly battle the cancer of match fixing and bribery since the 1994 crackdown. That cancer has since, silently, but surely, eaten into the entrails of the game once again.
The watch on corruption has to be a continuous one. Players will always be tempted by bookies and this problem is never going to go away. It is we who have to stay vigilant. But, typically, the tendency is always to grow complacent and let things slide or turn a blind eye until the squall becomes a raging tempest. That has always been the Malaysian way. But no more.
But how does one fight corruption? When you have an infection in your finger, you don’t cut off the whole hand. You treat the infected area the best you can and hope that it does not spread any further. The battle against match-fixing has to be handled the same way and knowing that absolutely no one is immune to it. That is the harsh reality. The scent of money is intoxicating,
There is no greater pleasure than watching a good, honest game of football. Without that assurance, the fans won’t come to the stadiums. They won’t buy tickets. An audience does not come to watch a “fixed” game. The financial and commercial damage may be irreversible. Without fans, there’s no football. Without spectators, the ratings are low and there are no advertisers. Nobody knows that better than FAM, which has yet to recover from the devastating consequences of that dark episode of 1994.