Football, having been declared as the state’s official sport eight years ago has continued to reel under various hitches. The latest being – an alleged match-fixing. Goa Professional League, the top-most league organised by the state’s football organisation – Goa Football Association – has come under the scanner for alleged live betting patterns which indicated match manipulation among teams.
The Asian Football Federation (AFC) has red-flagged six matches – all played within a month – for alleged ‘suspicious betting patterns’ indicative of match manipulation. These doubtful activities have been notified by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to the integrity officer of India’s top football governing body, All India Football Federation (AIFF), Javed Siraj.
The Goa Football Association (GFA) secretary Jovito Lopes has however said that there was no enough evidence for the allegations. He said that the organisation has conducted an investigation and has caught one person, Gabriel Fernandes, who was giving ball-by-ball commentary of league matches, but said match-fixing could not be proved due to a lack of evidence.
The secretary claimed that the suspected person was caught red-handed while he was giving the commentary during an I-League match between Goan outfit Churchill Brothers SC and Kerala’s Gokulam Kerala FC at the Fatorda Stadium on March 8 this year.
“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 said. He added that GFA has sent their report on March 9 to Javed Siraj after investigations and are yet to hear from them. In his reply, Lopes said the suspected person carried an I-Card of valid reporter of Genius Group issued by the AIFF.
However, it is reported that Javed Siraj, the integrity officer hasn’t received the March 9 report from GFA till date. He only received a short acknowledgement on March 6 saying that GFA will conduct an inquiry and look into the same.
The six ‘suspicious’ matches that have been marked by a foreign-based betting monitoring company, Sportsradar, are within the Goa Pro League 2019-2020 season. Moreover, all six games marked were played within a month’s time in 2019.
The match-fixing allegations involve some of the famous family-owned teams in the state, along with other low resonating teams in the state’s league, as claimed by the report.
Secretary Jovito Lopes also added that contracts of a few players were terminated on alleged suspicion of match-fixing. Moreover, rumours had surfaced earlier this year that a Panjim based club had filed a match-fixing complaint at the Panaji police station, to which the secretary had personally visited the station to inquire about the same. However, he said that no such complaint was lodged.
In one game on November 1, 2019, Dempo Sports Club defeated Calangute Association 4-0. According to the Sportsradar report, there was live betting involved for the Calangute side to lose the game, that too by three goals. In another, Sporting Clube de Goa beat the capital side, Panjim Footballers 3-0. The report stated live betting was involved for the Panjim side to lose by two goals, which later went to three.
Other games noted in the report include – Dempo SC 4-0 win over Guardian Angel, FC Goa’s 2-1 win over Guardian Angel and Salgaocar SC 4-0 win over Guardian Angel.
The Curchorem team, Guardian Angel SC – which is named in three games that are red-flagged – has questioned the silence on the path of the GFA. The club was not informed of these allegations against them until it surfaced in the media and has asked the football association to show proof of match-fixing against their club.
Majority of the Goa pro league games were played at the Duler Stadium in Mapusa, with some games held at the Navelim and Nagoa grounds.
Moreover, the state which has football as its state sport had slipped from the top five best-managed states and finished eight among the 11 state football associations analysed by the AIFF. At the moment, if these allegations are proved to true will be detrimental for Goan football going ahead.