'Betting and match-fixing are a major problem, especially in South-East Asia' - Tampines Rovers striker Aleksandar Duric

The 42-year old striker called for stricter action against rigging matches and talked up his team's chances ahead of the return leg against East Bengal in the AFC Cup....

The football world earlier this year was hit by a major match fixing scandal that threatened to question the integrity of the sport on a whole. Lebanon was at the centre of these allegations as it saw some of their players and match officials being suspended on the charge of rigging games. Three Lebanese officials were barred from officiating in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup game between Tampines Rovers and East Bengal on April 3, 2013 as they had allegedly taken sexual bribes to fix an AFC Cup tie.

Tampines Rovers’ veteran striker Aleksandar Duric was not surprised that match fixing has found its way to Asia.

“On our part, we were quite surprised to see an entirely different set of match officials. However, to be very frank, matters related to betting and match-fixing are a major problem, especially in South-East Asia,” said Duric to The Telegraph.

“Not many players in this part of the world earn handsome money. So there is a tendency to get influenced by fixers. And that’s one of the reasons these issues crop up,” he added.

The 42-year old striker called for FIFA to take strict action against the malaise of match fixing to avoid losing fan support who, according to Duric, may not turn up for games feeling that they are all fixed.

The Singapore international is in Kolkata with his Rovers team to take on East Bengal in the second leg of the AFC Cup group stage match. The Singapore based team lost their home leg by 2-4 and will be looking to return the favour.

Duric had last faced the Red and Gold in 2004 when he was with Geylang United for whom he scored 146 goals in 128 appearances.

“I still remember that match. We had won 1-0. One of the East Bengal players, Bhaichung (Bhutia), was pretty impressive in that game. But at present, East Bengal seem to have improved a lot,” observed Aleksandar.

“They made perfect use of all opportunities coming their way in our previous meeting (in Singapore), which is certainly a very good sign for a team. The foreigners (Edeh Chidi and Penn Orji) in the East Bengal team and their midfielder (Mehtab Hussain) played very well against us in Singapore. So, they are certainly a strong side,” the veteran observed.

The striker is also aware of rumours surrounding the future of East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan joining Rovers next season. “It could be a rumour. But you never know how things unfold,” speculated Duric.

The former Home United frontman was not too fussed with the artificial turf at the Salt Lake Stadium as he revealed that the surface at the Rovers’ home ground, the Jalan Besar stadium, is something similar to the one at Kolkata. “All we need to do is making use of the chances, something we didn’t in the first-leg,” Duric signed off.

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