Top Vietnamese sports officials have aggravated public anger over the disgraceful SEA Games match fixing episode by making some illogical and brazen decisions.
Le The Tho, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) vice chairman and vice chief of the delegation to SEA Games, is under a cloud for not reporting the match fixing attempts to the coach or accompanying police personnel. With his innocence in question, instead of initiating punitive action against him, the VFF has in fact bestowed additional responsibility on him while his boss has given him a clean bill of health.
At a SEA Games reviewing meeting this week he claimed to have “completed the work [he was] assigned at the event” although he had been informed by captain Phan Van Tai Em of the match fixing plot two hours before the game.
Under Vietnamese law failure to denounce a crime is also a crime.
Though the VFF standing committee disagreed with the Tho’s report at the meeting, they are yet to consider disciplinary action. They have, instead, passed the buck to the Committee of Sports and Physical Training.
If the failure to take disciplinary action is puzzling, completely bizarre is a decision by the VFF to make him head of a referee training course to be held in Danang and director of the national referee council’s congress in January. In light of what’s happening on the match fixing and bribery fronts in Vietnamese football, can there be a worse candidate?
Inexplicably, though Tho stands morally and legally indicted, he has been defended by his higher-ups.
Nguyen Hong Minh, vice president of the Vietnam Olympic Committee and chief of the SEA Games delegation, told a post-SEA Games review meeing in Hanoi that Tho did right in not informing head coach Alfred Riedl and security agents about the match fixing plots.
“Who would be responsible if coach Riedl became angry and suspended the suspected footballers leading to Vietnam’s defeat?” he asked the media.
A Thanh Nien reader, Pham Tien Dung, asked: “Can you imagine a father not acting to prevent his son from committing a crime when informed in advance?”
“Unless the father is complicit, he will do so,” he went on to answer himself.
Minh also claimed Tho failed to report the plot because he had no evidence.
If there was indeed evidence there would have been no need to report to Riedl: the policemen would have jumped the culprits.
In masterly doublespeak, Minh told the media, “Tho did his job at the SEA Games 23. He, however, must be responsible for the scandal surrounding the men’s football team.”
The public wants to know what task Tho “completed”.
Who is behind Le The Tho?
The decision to send Tho as vice chief of the delegation had been contentious, another VFF vice chairman, Le Hung Dung, said.
The VFF’s standing committee had not been informed that one of its members would accompany the delegation. It was Minh who directly recommended to the minister and chairman of the Committee of Sports and Physical Training to appoint Tho.
In a letter to Thanh Nien another reader, Van Binh, wrote tongue-in-cheek, “I want to thank you for your devotion which has brought national football to the ‘present state'”.
What is the “present state”? Half the country’s referees have been found guilty of taking bribes and fixing matches by the police, almost half the national team players suspected or directly involved in match fixing, and several clubs complicit in match fixing.
“Your resignation would be useful to Vietnamese football,” Van Binh said.
Reported by Dang Hanh, Dang Khoa – Translated by Minh Phat
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