Goa Pro League and the match-fixing allegations in Indian football

Match-fixing image (Getty)Getty

The Goan top division league has been embroiled in match-fixing allegations. Six matches of the suspended 2019-20 Goa Professional League have been red-flagged by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for a possible "match manipulation".

This is the latest chapter of match-fixing allegations that have cropped up in Indian football.

The communication from AFC came through to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) integrity officer, Javed Siraj, in March which indicated a "clear and overwhelming betting evidence that the course or result of the match was unduly influenced with a view to gaining betting profits" in six matches held between October 16 and November 19, 2019.

The matches in question involve seven clubs, namely Calangute Association, Panjim Footballers, Guardian Angel Sports Club, FC Goa II, Dempo SC, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa.

However, the Goa Football Association (GFA) - the governing body for football in Goa - has distanced itself from the allegations on the basis of their own findings. In the Goan FA's reply to the AIFF integrity officer, GFA general secretary Jovito Lopes suggested the name of a company which is purportedly is linked to an online betting site but maintained that GFA has no confirmation that it accounted to match-fixing.

Goa has been rocked by the shadows of match-fixing from 16 years ago when an atrocious 118 goals were scored in a single day where four clubs were involved. The GFA had suspended and fined Curtorim Gymkhana, Sangolda Lightning, Wilfred Leisure and Dona Paula an amount of INR 5,000 each for allegedly prearranging the final round of the second division inter-zonal play-offs.  Curtorim had beaten Sangolda 61-1 and Wilred defeated Dona Paula 55-1. 

In 1983, there was a similar instance when two Calcutta Football League (CFL) matches were reportedly fixed with the scorelines reading 114-0 and 80-0. The Kolkata third division teams back then, International and Indian Boys Athletic Club (IBAC) reportedly "advised" Juga Shanti and Victoria Sporting to lose in an exorbitant manner and the results were 80-0 and 114-0 respectively. The Indian Football Association (IFA) - the governing body for football in West Bengal - had to step in and suspend the four clubs and the players involved in the scandal.

Indian Football AssociationIFA

The CFL would see more such allegations later on. In 2015, after Tollygunge Agragami and Southern Samiti officials reportedly decided to fix the result of the match between themselves, with the former needing a win to stay afloat in the Premier A Division. Southern Samity allegedly picked a very young team to help Tollygunge Agragami win but when Tollygunge players went on to score four goals, the disparaged Southern Samity officials accused them of "breach of trust". The Tollygunge players seemingly even apologised to their opponents but no official action was taken.

In 2017, when Tollygunge Agragami defeated NBP Rainbow AC 2-1, the result was allegedly deemed "manipulated" as FIFA-appointed anti-corruption watchdog SportRadar supposedly had pre-hand information that the game will end in a similar scoreline and questioned the result of the game.

In September 2018, a month before IFA signed a multi-year partnership with SportRadar integrity services to monitor and safeguard the integrity of matches, a conversation over the phone between the former footballer and a Tollygunge Agragami player was made viral by Bengali news portal News 18 Bengali. The clip exposed the former star ostensibly telling the Tollygunge player - "Allow the opponent (Pathachakra) to score one after the 75-minute mark, that way the betting is done. They've been doing it for four years. Does anyone know? Did you know?"

Further back in 2005, allegations were levelled against the then Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Subrata Paul after the 1-4 humiliation at the hands of arch-rivals East Bengal in an IFA Shield group stage encounter. After the game, Bagan coach Amal Dutta said, "I worked hard to put him back on track but with the kind of fishy goals he conceded, he has blown away everything."

Paul was suspended for a brief period while the club conducted an investigation but the goalkeeper was let off soon.

And in the CFL 2014, Southern Samity technical director Raghu Nandi accused East Bengal of trying to fix their match. "East Bengal are in the championship race, so they approached us for fixing the match," Nandi had told Times of India back then.

Elsewhere, in Assam, the 114-year-old Gauhati Town Club decided to disband their senior team in 2012 and opted not to participate in any senior level football tournament including the Assam State Premier League for at least three years after the side's players were alleged to have been embroiled in match-fixing in the 2012 I-League second division.

Bhaichung BhutiaAIFF Media

Meghalaya-based Ar-Hima (later Rangdajied United) also lodged a complaint with the AIFF against Bhaichung Bhutia-owned United Sikkim for allegedly bribing their players to lose a match - a charge that the former India skipper denied. Questions were also raised over the Snow Lions' loss to Aizawl FC in the final match of the preliminary round of the I-League Second Division that helped both the teams progress to the final round.

Manipur's TRAU was in the news for the wrong reasons in the 2018-19 I-League second division when Mohammedan Sporting had complained to AIFF that the match between Chhinga Veng FC and TRAU on March 23, 2019, was "a total fixed match".

In the 2017-18 I-League second division, FC Kerala felt it necessary to release a statement that read, "The FC Kerala management has been informed of a media report alleging two of our 2nd Division I-League matches were rigged. Not only is the report factually incorrect, but also malicious in its commentary."

This was after Fateh Hyderabad wrote to the AIFF, complaining about the result of two matches between FC Kerala and Kerala Blasters reserves.

In the 2016-17 I-League, former owner of Minerva Punjab (now Punjab FC), Ranjit Bajaj, divulged that a total of seven of his players along with then-coach Khogen Singh were approached by bookies. They also wrote to the AIFF claiming that Chennai City officials were promised monetary benefits if they underperformed in certain matches.

An AIFF statement back then read - "We have received a letter from Minerva Punjab Football Club highlighting approach to their players and officials from other participating teams in the Hero I-League. The case is presently being handled by AIFF Integrity officer who is doing a thorough investigation into the matter and necessary action will be taken as per the regulations."

Mumbai FC (defunct in 2017) club official Atul Bagdamia told a joint workshop organised by FIFA and Interpol in New Delhi in January 2014 that he had been approached by a businessman who offered to sponsor a visit by his team to Malaysia to play a series of friendlies.

However, as the Indian Express newspaper quoted Bagdamia, "When they mentioned match-fixing, I immediately broke contact with them."

Dattaraj Salgaocar Zico Shrinivas Dempo FC Goa ISLFC Goa Media

The Indian Super League (ISL) also has a tale of match-fixing allegations after Chennaiyin FC dramatically defeated FC Goa 3-2 with two stoppage-time goals in 2015 final. In the aftermath, FC Goa levelled allegations that the ISL final was fixed and boycotted the ISL championship ceremony.

ISL issued a statement that read - "It has been brought to the notice of the ISL and concerns expressed by our partner Star India that FC Goa management has made adverse comments in the media disputing the result of the ISL 2015 finals played in Goa on Sunday night. The league has also taken a serious view of the unsporting behaviour by the Goa franchise and alleged unsporting behaviour of certain players of the teams on and off the field. ISL does not accept such behaviour from any member of the club management, support staff or players. The matter has now been referred to the ISL Disciplinary Committee. ISL has a strict code of conduct with an established integrity unit and an ACSU division. The league has not received any complaint from the Goa management," the official statement from the league read.

In September 2016, The ISL also brought on board a tie-up with SportRadar, who has been associated with the AFC since 2013 with a renewed contract with the Asian federation till at least the end of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup that will be held in China.