KUALA LUMPUR - Match-fixing is "shackling" Malaysia's attempts to progress as a footballing nation despite efforts to fight the problem, the country's youth and sports minister told parliament Tuesday.
Khairy Jamaluddin was speaking ahead of a game to be played Tuesday at the Shah Alam Stadium near Kuala Lumpur against the UAE.
"Match-fixing has been shackling national football since several years ago," Khairy was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.
"But continuous effort is being carried out by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and the Royal Malaysian Police with the ministry to combat the scourge."
A 1994 scandal saw 21 players and coaches sacked and 58 players suspended, but new cases continue to surface.
In 2012, the FAM suspended 18 youth players and banned a coach for life for match-fixing.
That same year the northern Perlis club placed nine players under investigation for corruption and suspended one player.
Former Asian Football Confederation general secretary Peter Velappan told AFP that match-fixing syndicates were "well entrenched" across Asia and were destroying the game.
"We need to impose punitive measures on those convicted," said Velappan. "Long-term prison sentences should be imposed. I would like to see them hanged also." Malaysia's national side has plummeted to 171 in FIFA's world rankings out of 209. It ranked 154 in 2014.
In September the national squad was thrashed 10-0 by the UAE during a World Cup qualifying match, the worst ever defeat for the national team.
Later that month angry fans fired flares at Kuala Lumpur's pitch during Malaysia's World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia, forcing the match to be abandoned and leading FIFA to sanction Malaysia.
Malaysia are out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia after losing 0-6 to Palestine in November.
Tuesday's return game against the UAE is being played behind closed doors to avoid crowd trouble.