Malaysia has come out to refute claims that Harimau Muda A's participation in the Queensland National Premier League (NPL) could expose the league and Australia to match-fixing.
An article published last Sunday in the Brisbane Times suggested that Asian betting syndicates could follow the Young Tigers to the country. It quoted international match-fixing expert Declan Hill, who said that syndicates could be attracted by the fact that Harimau Muda can gain points, but will not be eligible for the final round play-offs. It also related a report that then-Geylang United goalkeeper Yazid Yasin was approached by a match-fixer when Harimau Muda was playing in the S.League in 2012.
Hill was in the spotlight last year when he criticised Singapore's efforts to combat match-fixing in an interview with BBC World Service Radio in September, claiming that the government "tolerated" such activities. The Singapore Police Force subsequently refuted Hill's allegations, stating that they were baseless. Interpol chief Ronald Noble also suggested that people like Hill should "simply open their eyes and look at the facts".
Malaysia's Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, slammed the "unfair and unfounded" article, adding that match-fixing is a problem limited not just to Malaysia and Singapore football.
"Don't insult our national team to this extent," he told Utusan Malaysia.
Football Queensland chief operation officer Ben Mannion also insisted the participation of the Under-23 side was done through the "right channels" i.e through co-operation with the Australia and Queensland FAs.
Football Association of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin has since confirmed that Harimau Muda's participation in the NPL will go ahead.
"I’m denying this wild accusation because it’s more of the media’s perception only," he told Utusan. "What’s important is that our team will go there to get some experience. There is nothing to be worried about and I am working to get the FFA's (Australia FA) explanation regarding the issue."
Coach Ong Kim Swee also stated there would be no concerns as the team is focused on their mission.
The Queensland NPL is one of eight divisions in the National Premier Leagues competition, which only started in 2013. The winners of each division advance to a finals play-off tournament at season end, culminating in a grand final, which was won by Sydney United 58 last year.
Harimau Muda will play against 13 other teams in the upcoming season, in a move aimed to help spur their progress. However, they will not be eligible for the play-offs. They will depart for Australia later this month.