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.
“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.
“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
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.