Image Credit: Wikicommons

"I have never sold a match.."


In football, fans watching their team often joke about how some of the mistakes their players or the referees make are being done on purpose for bribe money.

Sometimes, however, it can be a serious issue. How do you know when a player is playing simply off his game and playing so badly that he may actually cost you the match as opposed to when he is actively seeking to ensure that you do?

It is not a situation that most coaches find themselves in, but last week in Malaysia, the English coach of professional team Terengganu, Peter Butler, seemed pretty sure.

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As soon as goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee Ramli fumbled a corner into this own net, Butler wasted no time in hauling him off the pitch, with a push in the back for good measure.

The meaning was clear. Butler, who played in the English Premier League for West Ham United and is an experienced coach in the region with spells in Singapore, Indonesia and Burma, thought that Sharbinee had deliberately cost his team a goal.

And if the meaning wasn’t clear, Butler’s comments after the game were.

"I don't want people like that working in my environment," Butler told Malaysian media. "We've got some wonderful footballers in that group. I don't want people who are not honest."

The action and comments are serious accusations.

The situation is serious. Malaysia is regarded as a hot-bed of international match-fixing. Corruption has reared its ugly head in the country on numerous occasions.

In 1994, Malaysian football was rocked by a widespread scandal that saw over 200 people in the game either sacked, suspended or investigated.

Earlier this year, 18 youth players were suspended.

With football seriously damaged by such behavior, punishment can be severe.      

If Sharbinee, regarded as one of the country’s top goalkeepers, is found guilty he will not only be banned from the game but could also face substantial time in prison.

If the goalkeeper is guilty then he deserves to be punished, nothing damages football more than match-fixing. But if he is just guilty of making a mistake then his reputation and integrity have been publicly damaged.

The shot stopper vehemently protested his innocence, throwing his water bottle at Butler as he left the pitch. 

Afterwards, he insisted he had done nothing wrong and vowed to clear his name.

“I have never sold a match and it saddens me that people have labeled me as corrupt.

 “I have always accepted criticism, especially from the coach, but it was always in the dressing room. I admit I lost my temper as he also hurled curses at me. I couldn’t contain my anger and retaliated by throwing the water bottle,” he added.

He said he would welcome an investigation from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). “Let the MACC investigate me. I want to clear my name.”

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