The Ninh Binh Province police have begun an investigation of Vissai Ninh Binh players who possibly fixed an Asian Football Confederation match against Malaysia’s Kelantan club on March 18, 2014.
Dinh Quang Vinh, deputy chief of the province police, said Tuesday they are identifying players to be charged with “gambling,” a crime punishable with a jail term of up to seven years.
The police had monitored the club during several V-League and AFC Cup matches and found “signs” of gambling by some players, including evidence.
Three days before the Kelantan match Tran Manh Dung, one of the players, allegedly met with three of his colleagues, Nguyen Manh Dung, Le Quang Hung, and Le Van Duyet, to discuss betting on the match.
On March 17 the group met with more teammates, Pham Xuan Phu, Chu Ngoc Anh, Nguyen Gia Tu, Phan Anh Tuan, and Nguyen Van Hung, to proposition them.
They agreed to bet VND2 billion (US$94,900) on “three equal,” meaning they would win if more than three goals were scored in the match, draw if there were three, and lose otherwise.
From Malaysia, Tran Manh Dung and Nguyen Manh Dung called Dao Duc Loi, a bookie in Hai Phong, to bet VND1.02 billion. But the odds and other details are not known.
Vissai Ninh Binh defeated Kelantan 3-2 and Loi paid out VND800 million.
Le Quang Hung, Duyet, Tu, and Nguyen Van Hung, who played in the match, got VND85 million each.
Substitutes Anh, Tuan, Nguyen Manh Dung, Phu, and Tran Manh Dung got VND75 million each.
Defender Le Van Thang, who was not in on the betting but was aware of it, was paid VND20 million.
Defender Hoang Danh Ngoc, who was not in the squad for Malaysia, came to know about the betting and blackmailed Tran Manh Dung, who gave him VND50 million later.
The players handed in the money to the police after their action came to light.
Vinh said the police are investigating the role of each player when asked about rumors that Nguyen Manh Dung masterminded the betting.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) said it is considering life bans for the players involved.
The federation would only consider allowing those who come clean to play in future, he warned.
VnExpress quoted him as saying: “I reported all the relevant information to AFC leaders. AFC chairman Al Khalifa said he and the AFC strongly support the VFF’s fight against dishonest players.”
But Vissai Ninh Binh would not pull out of the AFC Cup because of the scandal, he said.
“The VFF will support investigators in expanding their probe to other matches involving not just Ninh Binh but also other clubs.
“We will have to handle this thoroughly, conducting a major surgery to remove the malignant tumor and protect the health of Vietnamese football.”
Pham Van Le, chairman of Vissai Ninh Binh, said more players may have been involved in “negative actions” and in many other matches.
He said many of his players had been playing “abnormally” since last year, but he had put it down to lack of ability.
However, scandals are nothing new for many of Vietnam’s football clubs.
Hoang Manh Truong, former Vissai Ninh Binh chairman, said authorities took no action after newspapers and the public speculated about match-fixing in a 2012 Vietnam Super Cup match between Xuan Thanh Sai Gon and SHB Da Nang.
Last year, before withdrawing from the V-League, Xuan Thanh Saigon had complained that the V-League organizers were unfair to take measures against just them without probing other dubious matches.
Among them was one in which SHB Da Nang were defeated 4-1 by Vissai Ninh Binh in the 8th round of the 2013 V-League on May 5.
There were rumors that some players from both teams had agreed there would be more than four goals in the match and bet on it.
Xuan Thanh Saigon withdrew from the V-League after the VFF decided to dock them four points for dubious goings-on in the SHB match without pointing out the players responsible.
In 2007 two former national players were jailed for fixing an international match and six others, including popular striker Pham Van Quyen, received suspended sentences.
The eight were found guilty of fixing a match to ensure Vietnam beat Myanmar by no more than a single goal at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines in 2005.
Six other players – striker Pham Van Quyen, Huynh Quoc Anh, Le Bat Hieu, Chau Le Phuoc Vinh, Le Van Truong, and Tran Hai Lam – were given suspended sentences of two years to 30 months for “organizing gambling.”
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