Exclusive: Steve Darby defends Perak FA over match-fixing claims

The former Seladang tactician claimed that its always easy to blame mishaps on corruption, although he maintained that players should be banned for life if found guilty.
Former Perak FA head coach Steve Darby has backed the Perak FA squad and head coach, who were all suspensed on match-fixing suspicions recently.

The Seladangs suffered a 6-1 defeat to Sarawak in the Malaysia Cup, which led to claims over corruption and ultimately the temporary suspension of all players and officials.

However, Darby claims that while those found guilty should be granted hefty punishments, suspensions should only be lashed out when there is solid evidence present on the table.

"It's sad to see Perak. If a team players badly, the first thing they say is 'kelong', which is madness," he told Goal exclusively.

"But teams get freak results everywhere around the world. Did anyone say 'kelong' when United were thrashed by City? Did anyone say it when Johor Darul Takzim lost to Kelantan the other day?

"It's too easy to shout corruption and accusations should only be made if there is solid evidence on the table. If there is proof, then ban them for life. I know two Perak players, Shahrul Nizam and Hazrul Mustapha, and I can guarantee you that they would never fix matches. Nor would a top coach like Azraai Khor. Why would he ruin his career for a few dollars, he has too much of integrity for that.

"However, I am not naive enough to believe that match-fixing is just an illusion, because it is happening and it is the greatest enemy of the sport."
Quite of a number of Malaysian teams have been bogged by match-fixing problems in recent times, and Darby believes that is due to the fact that the issue is being dealt with from the wrong angle. He claims that the problem is not being tackled holistically, which is why it is continuously hurting the sport.

"We always target the tail of the snake, which is the players. The real reason for match-fixing lies at the head of the snake, they are the ones that should be targeted. Often, young uneducated players are blamed and sometimes they don't even get paid for three months.

"That is why when the state government stopped paying my Perak players for three months in 2008, I was very proud that we kept getting the result.

Perak's exit in the 2013 Malaysia Cup marked yet another year without silverware. The Seladangs have never been relegated from the Malaysian Super League and have consistently been competitive. However, they have not lifted a trophy for more than a decade now, which has left many Perak fans frustrated. As far as Steve is concerned, its all about having a solid management with good financial base.

"The key to success for any club is a strong management with strong fundings for good players. Expectations within the fans have to be realistic as well.

"In 2006, we finished second in the league on goal difference and we lost in the Malaysia Cup final to an exceptional Kedah side. But still, there were some fans who were unhappy and called for my head!

"I was fortunate that I had two great Presidents in Dato' Zahin and Datuk Muhyiddin. And they knew that with the budget we had prior to the season, we had exceeded all expectations. The budget generally dictates where the team will finish and this is an economic fact in all leagues."