KATHMANDU: Himalayan Sherpa and Saraswoti Youth Club were competing to outsmart each other with their soccer trick in the third match of Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League’s 9th edition on Feb. 27. However, the match served an unbelievable result.
Saraswoti Youth Club which had witnessed 7 consecutive defeats in 8 matches played before, managed to score 4 goals against Himalyan Sherpa’s 3 goals.
Most of the critics turned skeptic about the causes of unexpected result. The coaches of both teams were asked if it was unexpected. They seemed speechless in front of the reporters.
Both clubs alleged of match fixing are the clubs of the All Nepal Footballs Association (ANFA) officials. Himalayan Sherpa Club is run by ANFA President Karma Chhiring Sherpa. Similary, ANFA’s Vice President, Shixit Parajuli is the president of Saraswoti Club.
Himalayan Sherpa Club team
Many doubted that the alleged match fixing between the clubs run by ANFA President and Vice President could hardly come under investigation. However, ANFA, the national governing body of the soccer in Nepal launched the investigation.
A team consisting of ANFA’s integrity officer former DIG Sudeep Acharya initiated the probe on the issue and found ‘arbitration attempt’ in the case. Based on the probe’s conclusion, the Disciplinary Committee of ANFA took action against Deepesh Shrestha, then captain of Saraswati Club. Shrestha is alleged of arbitration attempt.
ANFA’s disciplinary committee has sanctioned Shrestha for 2 years. In addition to it, he has to pay 50000 rupees as fine.
ANFA’s probe had found that captain Shrestha had approached Himalayan Sherpa’s goalkeeper Kishor Giri with ‘match fixing proposal’.
According to the investigation, although team captain Shrestha had gone with the arbitration proposal, Himalaya’s Giri defied it. Giri had gone with the proposal when his team was in relegation zone.
When both groups were anxious about the possibility of falling into relegation, on the 2nd day of the 9th edition of Division league Shrestha had tried arbitration. Defeating Sherpa at 4-3 goal difference, Saraswoti had managed to score 3 more point with that win.
Sworswati Youth Club team
The win against Sherpa, was the first and last victory for Saraswoti Youth Club. With one victory and one equalizer result, Saraswoti has got 4 points in the league.
Himalayan Sherpa had to satisfy itself at 10th position in the league. It had defeated Machhindra Club with 2-0 difference in the match.
When the news of the match fixing became public, the integrity officer initiated the probe and Shrestha and Giri were banned to continue their scheduled matches as well. Though they were sued and were banned from forthcoming matches for 2 years, the public is not informed about their where about.
Saraswoti’s Captain Shrestha had approached Sherpa’s goalkeeper Kishor through ‘face book messenger’. After getting phone number via messenger, Shrestha proposed Giri for the arbitration assuring him that both of them would get lucrative financial reward through the deal.
Himalayan Sherpa Club’s team involvement
According to integrity official Acharya, during the probe they found no proof of involvement of the team members of either of the team. “Although we kept some players under vigilance and inquired some more, we found no other players involved in the alleged case,” Acharya said to Khabarhub.
The strong evidence related to the issue, however is believed to be the phone and messenger conversation between Saraswoti’s Captain and Himalayan’s goalkeeper.
Out of 91 matches of the league, the probe was centered only in one match played between Himalayan Sherpa and Saraswoti.
Integrity officer Acharya says that they did not find enough evidence to prove arbitration or match fixing. “Saraswoti’s Captain put the proposal to the Sherpa’s goalkeeper,” Acharya said, “however, Sherpa’s keeper Giri defied the proposal.” He told Khabarhub that they got no evidence of the influence of the proposal in the match played.
The investigation has not mentioned anything about the possibility of the involvement of the senior officials of the club. Though critic wonder how a player dared to talk about the financial promises without the instruction or promises from the senior officials. Acharya claims that they found no proof of senior officials.
Club manager faces action for withholding the info
Another person sued in the ‘arbitration allegation’ is Bijen Pudasaini, the Manager of Himalayan Sherpa. The report shows that Sherpa’s goalkeeper Giri reported the proposal to his team coach Min Basnet on Feb. 25.
Coach Basnet informed manager Pudasaini on Feb. 26, but manager Pudasaini took it too lightly and responded him asking him to focus on the match. Pudasaini assured Basnet he would look after the case.
Saraswoti Youth Club’s team involvement
The regulations demand that provided someone proposes for match fixing, the group or individual should inform it to the manager and the manager has to inform it to the senior officials.
“In case of this match, Goalkeeper Giri reported his manager one day late,” Integrity Officer Acharya reported to Khabarhub, “and the manager informed us only at the time of investigation; Pudasaini did not relay in time.”
ANFA has taken action against him for taking such grave issue like match fixing too lightly. The disciplinary authority of ANFA has decided to fine 30 thousand rupees and 3 months restriction. Goalkeeper Giri has only got the warning.
When asked about the cause of the unbelievable performance in the match, Acharya said, “Though the result in the game seemed unusual, the goals are not unnatural.”
Presidents also questioned!
Two persons involved in this incident were booked for punishment. The captain of Saraswoti Club has to bear 2 years ban and 50 thousand rupees as fine, whereas the manager of Himalayan Sherpa Club has to go through 3 months ban and 30 thousand rupees as fine. However, the questions arise what made the governing body ANFA shrink to investigate on and take action against the guilty clubs.
ANFA’s former President Ganesh Thapa opines that the clubs also should be the subject for investigation in this issue.
Goalie of Himalayan Sherpa
Although clause 21 of competition regulations has the provision of stringent measures against the persons involved in match-fixing or playing for arbitration, no action is taken as per the regulation. Thapa, in his social media post, has mentioned sarcastically about the strange disciplinary action of the national governing body and has further added, “Himalayan Sherpa is ANFA president’s club. Club officials might have been involved in it, so concerned authority should investigate it thoroughly.”
However, Acharya while speaking to Khabarhub, defended the action reiterating that though the ANFA prez and vice prez. were also interrogated in person, their involvement could not be established.
Criminal offence made shallow
Nepal’s legal provisions regard arbitration or match-fixing a criminal offence. Legal practitioners smell the ‘conflict of interest’ in the way the investigation procedure was executed. They opine that when the ANFA officials clubs are involved in the criminal offence, ANFA cannot form the probe committee unless the alleged club heads are suspended.
However, ANFA’s Integrity Officer Acharya does not deem it a criminal offence citing the absence of financial transactions in the alleged issue.
Bel Bahadur Pandey, the spokesperson at the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police tells that they need ANFA’s complain to start investigation in the issue.
A team of ANFA had been to CIB to request it to investigate the offence, but it did not file a case, rather it returned talking with the officers there. “A team had come from ANFA. They said it looked like arbitration and returned,” Pandey said, “the issue got confined to informal discussion alone.”
“Perhaps they wanted to take administrative action alone,” the spokesperson added, “otherwise, they would have come. They promised to come after discussion, but have not come since.”
FIFA and AFC’s zero tolerance!
ANFA’s Disciplinary Committee has stated that it has taken action against Saraswoti’s Captain Shrestha as per clause 21(7) of ANFA’s Regulations. The clause states that provided the ANFA’s investigation on the request of the concerned club finds the club and the players involved in arbitration or fixing, the player will be punished as per the rules of the nations and FIFA and ANFA’s regulations.”
FIFA and AFC the global body and the regional body to regulate football have been claiming that they hold zero tolerance policy in the instances of match fixing.
ANFA’s Disciplinary Committee has also cited Rule 66 of AFC’s Disciplinary and Ethics Code as the ground to take action against Shrestha. It provisions that provided the ‘match-fixing’ is verified, the player may face restriction on playing football and may require to pay 30 thousands to 50 thousand US dollar as fine.
Nepal’s law also regards match fixing as a crime against state. Clause 51(3)of Nepal’s Criminal Code Act (2017) provisions : Provided any player representing Nepal while competing in a tournament between the domestic players or players outside the country are found involved in some sorts of arbitration so as to influence the result such players the act shall be held as a crime against the state.”
General Secretary of ANFA Indra Man Tuladhar says that the conditions apply both at domestic and international tournament.
Match-fixing was there in 2015
Match-fixing is not a completely new phenomenon to Nepal’s foot ball. Earlier four national players including Captain Sagar Thapa, players Ritesh Thapa, Sandeep Rai, Bikash Singh Chhetri as well as their coach Anjan KC had faced fine and restrictions on match-fixing allegations. Nepal’s law however, had given clean chit to citing their deed could not be regarded as the crime against the state. They had got clean chit on May 19, 2018.