Match-Fixing in Goan Football?

By Ashwin Tombat
16 August 2020 12:07 IST


A dark shadow of match-fixing hovers over Goan football. Six matches of the Goa Professional League (GPL) have been identified as suspicious for possible match manipulation.

A report in a national newspaper said that the London-based ‘Sportsradar’ –  a betting technology company that also detects fraud and match fixing in international sports – informed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) about suspicious activities in some Goa Pro League matches detected by its Fraud Detection System.

The AFC sent a letter to All India Football Federation (AIFF) Integrity Officer Javed Siraj (a former CBI official) in early 2020 about “suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation” in six Goa Pro League matches held between 16 October and 19 November 2019. It said there was “clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of the match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining betting profits”.

The matches: Dempo’s 4-0 win over Calangute Association on 1 November 2019 – there was heavy live betting on Calangute Association losing the match by at least three goals. Second, Sporting Clube de Goa’s 3-0 win over Panjim Footballers on 12 November – suspicious live betting for Panjim to lose the match by at least two goals.

Guardian Angel was allegedly involved in four suspected matches: a 4-0 loss to Dempo on 12 November, a 1-2 defeat against FC Goa, a 1-0 win over Panjim Footballers on 16 October and a 4-0 defeat against Salgaocar on 19 November. “The betting evidence ultimately indicates that bettors held prior knowledge of Guardian Angel Sports Club losing the match by at least four goals,” the report said about the match against Salgaocar.  

In the first “highly suspicious” match on 16 October, there was live betting for Panjim Footballers to lose the match against Guardian Angel by at least two goals. “Although the match ultimately ended 1-0, rendering most of the highly suspicious betting unsuccessful, it does not make the betting patterns observed any less concerning,” the report said. “This match represents a failed manipulation attempt,” it added.

The AIFF notified the Goa Football Association (GFA) about these suspicions in a letter dated 3 March. The GFA replied on 6 March, saying: “We are looking into this matter.” From here on, things start to get a little murky.

GFA Gen Secretary Jovito Lopes told the media that one Gabriel Fernandes was giving a ball-by-ball commentary of Goa Pro League and I-League matches over multiple mobile phones. Fernandes had an AIFF-issued identity card as a reporter of the Dubai-based ‘Genius Group’, which is linked to the London-based online betting company ‘Bet 365’. But match-fixing could not be proved owing to a lack of evidence.

Lopes says he put all this in a letter to the AIFF on 9 March, but the GFA received no reply from the AIFF. Siraj says he never got any letter from the GFA.

All this, ‘tu-tu-main-main’, of course, came out only after the scandal broke in the media on Monday. Before that, both GFA and AIFF were conveniently silent: “Meri bhi chup, teri bhi chup…

Guardian Angel denies any wrongdoing. “Does the AFC or AIFF have any proof of our players’ involvement? If yes, they should show it…,” says club President Jhoncy Fernandes. League leaders Sporting Clube, Dempo SC and Salgaocar FC say they expected to win their matches and did not find anything doubtful. Only Calangute Association President Alirio Lobo said that he felt something suspicious was happening in the competition last year.

GFA President Churchill Alemao now proposes to appoint a five-member independent panel led by a retired judge to probe suspicions of match-fixing. The proposal is before the GFA Executive Committee, whose members have to provide feedback before Wednesday 12 August.

But rumours continue to fly. A top club reportedly suspended three players for wrongdoings on and off the field, while two others were let off with a warning. Several players apparently received calls from mobile number 933******2 asking them to either concede goals or not score, for a payment of Rs40,000 to Rs60,000. The payments were allegedly made in cash soon after the match. Some players are quoted as saying they were approached by players from their own teams to under-perform. Others said the club management refused to pay their salaries until they agreed to comply with such demands. All the above are ascribed to various ‘anonymous’ sources; the truth is simply not known.

Betting in sport is now bigger – and dirtier – than ever. There are even fake matches. Sportsradar’s Director of Intelligence and Investigation Services Oscar Brodkin recently published a white paper called ‘Ghost Games—An Explanation’. A ghost game does not actually take place but is falsely advertised to bookmakers, punters and the public only to gain profits from betting: “Perpetrators have advance knowledge of the final score, which they have decided,” he says.

Apart from Cricket and Football, among sports popular in India that Bet 365 accepts wagers on are Badminton and Kabaddi. Will the scourge of match-fixing ultimately engulf them too?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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