'Football has become a victim'

'Football has become a victim'
TNP columnist Neil Humphreys (left) and TNP senior correspondent Zaihan Mohamed Yusof (centre) during their panel discussion on match-fixing at the Singapore Writers' Festival.

Mention Singapore football, and football corruption and match fixing come to mind.

This was what Neil Humphreys, The New Paper's (TNP) football columnist, found when he was covering the recent World Cup in Brazil.

He was speaking yesterday during a panel discussion on match fixing, organised as part of the Singapore Writers' Festival.

TNP senior correspondent Zaihan Mohamed Yusof was also on the panel. Both men have written books on match fixing.

In his opening remarks at The Beautiful Game... Not?, Mr Zaihan said that while football is still a beautiful game, much of it now seems to be driven by greed.

"It's all about the money now. Football (as a sport) has become a victim," said the journalist, whose book is titled Foul! The Inside Story of Singapore Match Fixers.

This was a view shared by Mr Humphreys, who said that Singapore has a culture of sports betting.

"In a cab in Singapore, within two minutes, the driver would be telling me about his football bet and how he 'gave one ball and ate three balls'," said Mr Humphreys, who wrote Match Fixer, a novel about match fixing, with Singapore as backdrop.

Singapore's reputation suffered when it was revealed in February last year that more than 680 matches internationally had been fixed, with half the matches suspected to have been fixed by local match-fixing syndicates, he said.

In interviews shortly after the news broke, Mr Humphreys said he was often asked why the Singapore Government did not seem to be clamping down on match-fixing, as well as on the lack of local media coverage on the issue.

He said the first point seemed to be slightly unfair since a number of arrests were made.

But he agreed that stories of Singapore's international match-fixing syndicates could be given more prominence in the media.

Since September 2010, TNP has run more than 150 stories on international match fixing involving syndicates here.

Mr Zaihan said the authorities making too big a show on clamping down on such activity could work against them.

He said: "Ultimately, (the government agencies) are here to catch the match-fixers."

ARRESTS

He said that after some initial miscommunication between local authorities and international investigators, a number of prominent match fixers were arrested last September and are still in custody.

When asked if the chapter has closed on match fixing, Mr Zaihan disagreed.

"There's a void now. But when you cut off one head, the next head takes over."

He is working on his next book, which will focus on the international aspect of match fixing.

Several members of the audience said they gained a new understanding of the issue.

Tutor Yanya Liau, 26, said she was intrigued when Mr Humphreys pointed out the lack of local media coverage on match fixing.

"It was interesting to hear different perspectives on such an issue and to learn what goes on behind the scenes," she said.

lawsm@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 3, 2014.
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