IN THE SPOTLIGHT By ERIC SAMUEL: THE only ones shocked by the latest revelations of match-fixing in the M-League must have been the FA of Malaysia (FAM). But that shouldn’t come as a surprise as they are such a clueless and ineffectual bunch.
FAM largely operate on snooze mode with minimum effort and enterprise. Cosseted in the comforts of Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya, they would rather not have to deal with issues and problems. Hence the pathetic state of Malaysian football.
For 30 years, FAM have operated on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of non-disclosure and total inaction. They would rather not know. If, by some accident, an earthquake of an incident were to awaken them from their slumber, the standard operating procedure is first of denial. Then, if that doesn’t wash, they throw in some outrage, threats and demand that evidence be produced. If that fails, they come up with the fancy garnish of empty promises spiced by an abundance of posturing, offerings and, ultimately, passing the buck.
There is no sense of responsibility or accountability. Hasn’t been for 30 years. Under their watch, their only claim to fame is how Malaysian bookies, together with their Singapore counterparts, now virtually infest world football — fixing matches all over the globe.
They are good, these Malaysian corrupters of the beautiful game. After all, they have had lots of practice as match-fixing has been rampant in this country since the 70s. FAM obviously don’t want to know and we all appreciate how effective our law enforcement agencies are in fighting corruption.
Whatever happened to the task force formed to counter match-fixing? It was set up only a year ago by FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah with the police to monitor national and state teams as well as state football associations. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Was that yet another committee formed to sit on their arms to placate public ire?
How many such panels have we seen FAM form to little or no effect, whatsoever? The national team have yet another disastrous outing: form a committee. Standards have plunged: form a committee. The game at local state and district level is in the doldrums, or worse: form a committee. The officials are dysfunctional: form a committee comprising the very same officials. The balls are sub-standard: form a committee. The seats of the FAM meeting room are not comfy enough: form a committee. The only solution any of these committees would have come up with would be in getting more cushy chairs for the meeting room.
FAM either don’t take the scourge of football bribery seriously or, like almost everything else, are totally flummoxed with no idea as to what should be done.
The so-called task force was clearly only formed to impress the FIFA delegation, led by its Head of Security Chris Eaton, during his visit to Wisma FAM in January last year.
Eaton had commented that several Malaysians were involved in match-fixing scandals in Germany, Finland and Singapore and that investigations pointed to a significant KL bookie connection. No problem, form a committee.
So, we have it. Another season and yet another scandal brewing barely a month into the 2012 Malaysian Super League (MSL). In fact, there were strong allegations of match-fixing in the opening Premier League tie between Muar Municipal Council and Perlis. The match, at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Muar on Jan 9, was a bizarre high-scoring game with the club side thrashing Perlis 7-2.
The suspicious result prompted Perlis Football Association (PFA) president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to conduct his own probe. It resulted in some players admitting that they had been approached by bookies.
FAM have received a report from PFA on the alleged incident but nothing has come of it, yet. The tragedy is nobody is bold enough to come out in the open to expose the culprits. Everyone seems to be talking of match-fixing but nobody wants to do anything to nail the miscreants.
What is FAM going to do to curb the rot besides the usual warnings and promises which are forgotten as soon as they are made?
Of course, they did initiate an integrity awareness campaign last June. The only thing that came out from this campaign, for players to say no to bribery, is that the “integriti” logo was patched onto the sleeve of their jersey. That’s about it, as effective as the countless slogans we have been inundated with over the years.
The last time a major match-fixing scandal rocked the country in 1995, Malaysia lost an entire generation of talented players as more than 150 of the best were either banished or banned for life following police investigations.
We have never recovered from that ugly episode. That was also when the disenchanted fans switched en masse to the English League. Some 17 years later, the M-League is still struggling to get them back.
Even then, FAM only acted because they had no other choice as the media went on a crusade together with the police to expose the corruption that riddled the game.
But to take the easy way out and close an eye to venality is perhaps a bigger sin than the actual bribe accepted. It condones and encourages the perpetuation of the crime. That is why corruption is endemic. Institutionalised even. FAM are duty bound to act. Afterall, we are a lowly 148 in the FIFA rankings and our football is going nowhere. So, cleaning it up would be a good statrt.
But that takes dedication and commitment like what the Turkish Football Federation did in withdrawing champions Fenerbahce from last season’s Champions League due to allegations of endemic match fixing and bribery. It showed that the national body meant business and will not tolerate any nonsense.
Yes, it was drastic but it is a lesson which others should emulate to start eradicating the virulent disease once and for all.
But then the amateurs running the game in this country must first wake up from their comfortable slumber of denial. The issues that hound Malaysian football are catalogued in black and white — a chronic lack of leadership, absence of discipline, general ineptitude and a woeful structure of coaching and administration, all of which have led to the slow and painful death of the game.
So no more smokescreens, excuses or passing the buck, Kick the evil practice out for good or step down and let others do it.