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Reports of match fixing don't surprise Baichung Bhutia

Even as the world of sport reacted with shock yesterday to EUROPOL’s investigative findings of match-fixing in top football matches including the Champions League, World Cup Qualifiers etc, former India skipper Baichung Bhutia is not at all surprised with the revelations.


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“I have always heard and even seen dodgy people approach players, match officials and even club officials here in India asking players to under-perform. This is particularly prevalent in competitive local leagues in places like Kolkata. Many a time I have seen some weird scorelines like 17-0, 21-0 etc in matches in Kolkata.

“Halka khelo”
“While in a game like cricket, one can fix a player or two to decide the outcome of a match, in football one has to involve at least five or six players to fix the outcome of a game, and I’ve seen people approach club players in India saying “halka khelo” (play lightly). So, if this can happen in the local scene in a country like India that is not even a pre-dominantly football-playing nation, then why would this not be happening in places like Europe and other prominent football-playing Asian pockets like Singapore, Malaysia etc where big money can be made,” Bhutia told MiD DAY from Sikkim yesterday. Europol revealed on Monday that a five-country probe had identified 380 suspicious matches targeted by a Singapore-based betting cartel, whose illegal activities stretched to players, referees and officials across the world.

A further 300 suspicious matches have been identified outside Europe in Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, during the course of the
investigation.

Malaysian talk
The 35-year-old striker, who was the first Indian player to play in Europe, when he signed on for Bury FC over a decade ago, also spoke of having heard of fixing abroad. “During my second stint in Malaysia (2005), while I played for Selangor MK Land, every now and then, my teammates would tell me of people approaching them to under-perform. So everything that we have heard of (from EUROPOL) is definitely possible. It’s a shame,” added the current CEO of I-League club Sikkim United FC, who retired from international football last year. 

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