AFC red-flags 6 Goa Professional League matches for possible ‘manipulation'
The AFC had written to AIFF's integrity officer, Javed Siraj, in March informing about suspicious patterns in six Goa Professional League matches last year.
The AIFF said it is looking closely at the developments reported by its integrity officer about the Goa Professional League matches. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
The Asian Football Confederation has red-flagged six matches of last year’s Goa Professional League for possible “match manipulation” but the state association on Monday said there was not enough evidence.
The AFC had written to the integrity officer of AIFF, Javed Siraj, in March informing about “suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation” in six matches held between October 16 and November 19 last year.
Goa Football Association secretary Jovito Lopes said his organisation had conducted an investigation and also caught hold of one person -- Gabriel Fernandes -- who was giving ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches but said match-fixing could not be proved due to a lack of evidence.
The matches involved local teams Calangute Association, Panjim Footballers, Guardian Angel Sports Club, FC Goa II and former I-League sides Dempo SC, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa.
He went on to claim that the suspected person was caught red-handed while he was giving the commentary during an I-League match at Margao on March 8 this year between Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala FC.
“We have investigated after getting the letter but we can’t conclude that there was match fixing. We don’t have hard evidence. The AIFF can only give us evidence and conduct a thorough investigation,” Lopes told PTI from Goa.
“We have sent our report to Mr. Siraj after our investigation on March 9 and we are yet to hear from the AIFF after that.”
In his reply to the AIFF letter, Lopes said the suspected person carried an I-Card issued by the AIFF as the valid reporter of Genius Group.
“It was on 08.03.2020 at Nehru Stadium, Fotorda, Margao that our vice-president, Mr. Anthony Pongo brought to the notice of GFA Secretary that there was one person in the stadium’s west zone who was constantly on mobile, relaying the commentary of the Hero I-League match between Churchill Brothers vs (Gokulam) Kerala FC,” Lopes said in his reply.
”...since the Genius Group is allegedly linked to Bet 365, the possibilities of online betting pretty is high, play by play. However, we have no proof or evidence in the matter.
”... the Genius Group’s by AIFF needs to be seriously looked into.”
Lopes said the “serious matter” was immediately brought to the notice of the match commissioner of the said I-League game.
“He (Match Commissioner) replied that he could not intervene and that it be reported to the AIFF which was done,” the GFA secretary said.
“Further, our investigations with our Duler stadium manager, Mr. Anthony Lobo revealed that the same person was also attending Goa Professional League matches at Duler Stadium. He would purchase a ticket to enter the stadium and sit in the spectators’ gallery and relay the match proceedings.”
Reacting to the development, the AIFF said it follows a zero-tolerance policy to any form of corruption in the sport.
“AIFF Integrity Officer Mr. Javed Siraj is currently looking into monitored reports from Sportsradar, a company engaged by the Asian Football Confederation in reference to fixing allegations in the Goa Professional League which is hosted and conducted by the Goa Football Association (GFA),” it said.
“The AIFF Integrity officer has already followed it up twice, and is currently awaiting a reply from authorities in the GFA after explanations were sought in a letter in January 2020, which was followed up by an official visit in February 2020.”
Lopes said there was no complaint lodged in Goa regarding possible match-fixing.
“I visited the Panjim Police station as there were rumours that a complaint on match fixing was lodged by a Panjim-based football club. After meeting with two sub-inspectors and the head constable it was ascertained that no such complaint on match fixing was lodged.
“Further, our investigations also revealed that the contracts of a couple of players of a football club were terminated on alleged suspicion.”