V-League side Vissai Ninh Binh have been hit by a massive match-fixing scandal with as many as 13 players from the club now under investigation, including members of the Vietnam national team.
Club owner Vu Manh Truong has suspended all club activities while match-fixing investigations are underway. Ninh Binh have also voluntarily withdrawn from the ongoing V-League season, with the club languishing third from bottom in the table. The club's unusual pattern of registering the best first-half results in the league, with as many as five out of eight matches where points were dropped after leading at the break, has given rise to more questions over the credibility of the results.
The 2013 Vietnamese Cup champions made their AFC Cup debut this season and have impressed, sealing progress to the knockout stages with a game to spare.
However, Goal understands that Ninh Binh's matches in the AFC Cup are also under scrutiny following suspicious results, with the team believed to have tried to fix half-time results.
Their recent encounter against Kelantan FA in particular has been brought to the attention of the investigators. Ninh Binh were trailing 2-1 at the break during the match played on March 18 at Kota Bahru, despite the Malaysian side being reduced to 10 men. The match eventually ended 3-2 in favour of the Vietnamese side.
Goal understands the players involved have admitted to receiving a total of VND800m (USD40,000) to fix the AFC Cup match against Kelantan.
"Guilty players must be punished," Vu Manh Truong told Goal. "Although Ninh Binh have qualified for next round of AFC Cup, we don't need such treacherous results. I'm ready to sacrifice this team."
Truong also added that given the involvement of such a large group of players, it has left the club with few remaining players to work with.
"If it were only 2 or 3 players, the club would continue playing but this is complicated because many players are involved," he said. "At the moment, I can tell nothing until investigation is completed. In fact, if those guilty players are suspended, we don't have enough lads to play. We are waiting for decision from Vietnam Football Federation (VFF). For now, our club has temporarily stopped playing."
Prior to the launch of the recent suspensions Vietnamese internationals Le Phuoc Tu and Nguyen Manh Dung were both suspended last week under similar circumstances.
Neither the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and Ninh Binh who are unbeatend and top Group G in the AFC Cup have yet to announce if their results will stand in the competition.
Hanoi T&T are the other Vietnamese club in the AFC Cup and have also done well, qualifying for the next round with a game to spare.
The news comes just days after members of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) signed a mutual development pact with their East Asia counterparts that also focussed on combating match-fixing. Football Association of Singapore (FAS) General Secretary labelled football corruption as 'cancer in the game'.
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