Insight

How betting, match-fixing are hindering football growth in Africa

Sports betting is not strange all over the world, but the role players and some officials play to achieve their objectives is disturbing. CHARLEs OGUNDIYA looks at this ugly trend and the way forward

It was an unexpected twist for Super Eagles invitee, Issah Ali, after he was removed from Nigeria’s squad for the upcoming international friendly against Mexico after receiving a ban from the Ghana FA over Ashanti Gold and a match manipulation.

The Remo Stars of Nigeria defender was one of the four players accused of match manipulation in the game involving Ghana Premier League teams, Ashanti Gold and Inter Allies, with the two clubs already relegated to the third tier of Ghanaian football. Apart from Ali, another player currently playing in the Nigerian league, Andy Okpe, also with Remo Stars, was given a two-year ban.

Only recently, the League Management Company cancelled the registration of the two players claiming that after reviewing their registration documents, it was discovered that their club, Remo Stars, failed to provide critical information about their status, leading to the cancellation of their registration and thereby disqualified them from participating in the league.

LMC however cleared Ali after his club presented all the documents needed with Okpe still out in the cold. It was revealed that Ali has an existing contract with Remo Stars till 2024. He was recalled from Ghana during the Nigeria National League playoff, the NNL were supposed to capture his loan history, instead, he was registered to continue with Remo Stars because of his existing contract. Investigations by New Telegraph however revealed that the critical information has to do with their former club in Ghana, Inter Allies, as it never showed in their documentation with the league body.

The allegation

This comes on the heels of an accusation by former Enyimba player of Ghanaian descent, Fatau Dauda, who said he decided to leave the Nigeria Professional Football League as a result of betting issues. Dauda, who has 26 caps for the Black Stars had a spell with the Nigerian outfit between 2016 and 2019. The 37-year-old made this revelation following the match-fixing scandals in Ghana’s Premier League. Speaking on Angel TV, the former Ashantigold and Legon Cities shot stopper shockingly said he departed Enyimba FC because some of the players in the team were betting on their games.

“There’s one particular reason why I finally decided to leave Enyimba FC. It’s all because of betting. Betting can completely destroy football,” he told a radio station in Ghana. “You know Nigeria is a big country. Sometimes, we can be on the road for two days traveling for an away game. We will go and lose a game, but when we come on the bus, you’ll see some players happy.

“You’ll see some players pressing their phones, checking score lines of other league games. I later got to find out from one of our guys that some of the players in the team were betting on our matches. “They were fixing the games. It was shocking. It was the reason I decided to leave because I can’t be part of this and it was a waste of time playing in games when some people have already planned the outcome.”

Denial

However, in a quick twist, Dauda in a voice note sent to another journalist, denied saying Enyimba was involved in betting, blaming those who want to write sensational stories for picking such angle from what he said during the interview. Our correspondent however contacted another Ghanaian journalist, Nuhu Adams, who said the player was just trying to save face with his former club while also asking Enyimba to as a matter of urgency come out with a statement disassociating themselves from what the goalkeeper said.

This was a big indictment on the league with some players who doesn’t want their names in print out of fear also corroborating Dauda’s claim. Some players in the league are said to be under investigation at the moment while some others are under close watch. The popular claim has been about match officials manipulating the results of games with bad officiating sometimes induced by club administrators, however, it has also been revealed that players also play their part in some of these games.

Stakeholders shocked

Former Team Manager of Rangers and a lawyer, Amobi Ezeaku, said betting is a capital offense in sports and football particularly, and must be eradicated. “What is happening now with people like Dauda in Enyimba and the two players from Remo under a potential international ban, it doesn’t purify the game,” he said. “We should look at this and look at the rules and how the rules on ground could solve the problem while also developing more rules that will really solve this problem because once football loses its purity, we are playing for nothing.

“The issue of betting is strange to me, when I was in the league, in Rangers for an instance, and I think till now, there is a code of conduct that every player must sign, if there is any clue that you are even thinking of it, you will be out of the team. “In fact, on some occasions we have used the EFCC in Enugu, the state security service to look at what players and officials did then, I am happy to say that we were able to purify the game.

“Again, the authority should also look at the roles that the betting companies also play in football, you know football has a lot of stakeholders and you should know when to draw the line. Are the betting companies just coming over for adverts? Would they have influence on the players, officials and clubs? These are the things that need to be reviewed and a roadmap, blueprint must be established. “This is time to continue to educate, talk about how to purify the league and hopefully we are going to make a headway.”

A coach in the Nigeria league, Bobby Emmanuel (not real name), said the players often involved in this despicable act are mostly the defenders and goalkeepers. According to him, this happens all over the world involving some big cartel who tries their best to lure these players with big money. “I am close to these players and I see many things happen,” he said.

“I have seen scores being predicted and it came out that way. A lot of guys are benefiting from it seriously, especially the players. Few of the management members are also into it. “This happens most times in the beginning of the season and the end of the season. Most teams that are comfortable in the middle of the table will likely have their players involved in betting. “The people that use to do those things are the defenders and goalkeepers. They will talk to two of the centre backs and maybe join in a right back with the goalkeeper.

They will promise them a lot of money, some pay in advance. Some of these things are not just facilitated by Nigerians and the players, some of them are foreign cartels, people who are into match fixing. “They talk to the players directly and offer them big money to get them goals in the first half. Allow maybe two goals to enter your post in the first half and that’s all. “Some of them arrange for a draw.

When I see certain teams winning, I know that they will still concede because they already fixed it to be a goal-goal match, each team will score. There are some that go for over 3.5, that they are going to score about four goals in that match. That’s why you see goals coming in anyhow and when it gets over four, every goal ceases and they start defending immediately because they have made their money. “Some players get up to N200,000 every Match Day. Even when they lose a match, you will see some players smiling. Most of these players are not paid well by their clubs. It was so obvious when it happened in Heartland.

They were conceding two goals and above and the players were cashing out. “They were paying themselves salary since the club doesn’t want to pay them. It also happened in Jigawa State last season and many other clubs. It is something that has eaten deep into the Nigerian system.”

A surprising game

A game during the 2019 NPFL Super 6 played in Lagos came to mind as fans and journalists alike already revealed the final score of that particular game. Now relegated FC IfeanyiUbah already lost all their four games in the competition and playing Rangers, who at the time also fighting for a slot on the continent in their final game, no one was looking forward to an upset, but the bone of contention was the final score.

At a time, some foreigners called to be sure of what they heard was a correct score of 4-2 in favour of Rangers circulating around. With few hours to the game, all Nigeria betting sites removed the game from any option as people were placing a bet on a correct score option. Rangers needed just seven minutes before they had their heads in front as Chiamaka Madu fired in the first goal after being perfectly set up by Micheal Uchebo. The Flying Antelopes created a handful of chances after their first goal, but they failed to convert them until they finally got it right in the 42nd minute when Chidera Ezeh’s volley was deflected by Jimoh Gbadamosi into the net. Five minutes into the second half, Rangers extended their lead further, this time it was Christian Madu that fired in the third.

While it was looking like Anambra Warriors will be decimated in their last outing in the championship play-offs, the youthful team reduced the deficit moments after they let in the third goal through Chibuike Ezeh. Ezeh was on target again for the Anambra Warriors in the 55th minute as a comeback was now looking possible. However, the Flying Antelopes restored their two-goal lead when Godwin Aguda in the 64th scored from the penalty spot after a handball incident was spotted by the referee in the Anambra Warriors’ box. Immediately after the final whistle by the referee, the statement I said so rented the air with some individuals checking their winnings.

Longest-playing player in the NPFL, Victor Ezeji, said it was unfortunate such thing was happening at the moment as he never heard of it during his active days in the league. He added that due to the fact that there were no betting companies during his days, it was difficult to see player doing it. Ezeji frowned at the development and called on the appropriate authorities to give a strong sanction to any culprit. According to him, if someone is banned for 10 years because of involvement in betting, then others will know that they should not go near it. The former Enyimba of Aba forward said: “Of course when I was playing there was no betting companies, so even if there was then, Nigerian league was not on any betting platform, so I cannot say it happened or debunk what Dauda has said.

“He was the one playing there so whatever he says, he should be able to take responsibility for it. On my end, I have not witnessed it and I doubt if players will engage in such. How are they going to do it? Are they going to score goals or play something that is not right when everyone is watching? It will be so obvious, I believe that was his opinion. He has said it and it’s his responsibility to stand by it. “For the two players that have been suspended, I’m sure that Ghana FA must have done their investigation and saw what was wrong.

For them to come all out and say they are suspended for 24 months, what the NFF needs to do is to carry out their own investigation and let it not be a situation of witch hunting. “If they have suspended other players, then they might not be wrong by coming out to say this really happened and these guys have been suspended for 24 months.

That is a whole two years and it’s a step in the right direction. “Even in Nigeria, some players were suspended and even though the club didn’t come out to give a reason, there were rumors that it had to do with match fixing. It’s something that needs to be looked into. “It’s worrisome, players shouldn’t be playing bets. It’s a product of greed, because you are well paid and then what is the point doing that. People are paying their money to come and watch you and you are manipulating the game just to make more money. That’s not nice at all. It doesn’t sound professional.

“I will advise any player who is into it to just desist from it because it doesn’t tell well. When you are paid you should do your job as a professional. I think players should be banned from playing bet, that’s not encouraging at all because once you play bet, there is every likelihood that you may want to undo the game to your favor. Greed is part of human but that shouldn’t come to play when football is concerned.”

LMC reacts

When contacted, the chairman of the League Management Company, the body running the elite league in the country, Shehu Dikko, he said he won’t comment on the situation at the moment as they are already conducting their investigations. The NFF 2nd vice president said the NFF compliance people already requested for the judgement from the Ghana FA to know the way forward. Dikko said: “We have to see the full judgement, then we can react. GFA ought to have sent copy to NFF by now since the two players involved are playing under NFF jurisdiction at the moment.” On allegation by former Enyimba player, Dauda, Dikko said the player himself already came out to debunk the story, although all he said was on a national TV in Ghana.

 

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