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Footballers were helpless against bookies, says ex-player

As published in Sunday Mail

By Haresh Deol

PETALING JAYA — A former footballer has disclosed how Kuala Lumpur FA was “managed” by alleged bookie G. Prem Kumar in 2013.
The footballer, who revealed all to Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity, described his season with the city side as a “nightmare”.
Nicknamed Tom Boy, the 49-year-old Prem Kumar from Sentul was detained on Thursday and remanded on Friday for six days over allegations of match-fixing.
This was following the arrests of three Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian FA (MISC-MIFA) footballers for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

Threatened in Sentul

He added Prem Kumar, who was married to a police officer, was no stranger to the domestic scene and once played as a striker for Public Bank.
“He then became an official with Public Bank (in 2003) and was active in community football. I’ve seen him play in smaller tournaments,” he said.
Recalling the 2013 fiasco, the ex-athlete said the team first met Prem Kumar and Rajendran ‘Pal’ Kurusamy during a meeting in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.
“We met them at a shoplot in Jalan Sentul Manis and they assured us the team we were in was in good hands and we were capable of winning the Premier League.
“But I knew something was not right when we played our first match of the season against Pos Malaysia at Stadium Selayang (Jan 7, 2013).”
Kuala Lumpur lost the match 3-2. But the former player said Kuala Lumpur was supposed to lead 2-1 at half time but the teams were tied at 2-2 before heading to the dressing rooms.
“Prem Kumar and Pal called for a meeting in Sentul after the match and they were not pleased. They said we didn’t follow instructions.”
He said there were several other meetings at the same shoplot where players were threatened.
“They told us not to mess up the games or the team will not be able to make money.”

‘Hold, let go or attack’

The former footballer described Prem Kumar as initimidating.
“He was big and rather scary. He often raised his voice when he spoke in Tamil.
The players were told to play their matches but instructions would come from “someone” in the stands.
“That person will signal the instruction with different gestures to the defenders and they would relay the information to the rest. We were told to either hold, let go or attack while on the pitch.”
He said the players could not trust anyone.
“We knew Prem Kumar’s wife was a police officer, so we were afraid of going to the cops.
“We tried speaking to Kuala Lumpur FA officials but there was a mole in the team as Prem Kumar and Pal warned us from approaching the officials.”
He claimed players were paid between RM300 and RM1,000 as a “bonus” after every match.
“A player will be assigned to distribute the cash in a white envelope, usually after training. But there were two occasions when the team got their money from Pal at his house in a condominum in Seremban. The unit was on the second floor.
“At his house, Pal invited us to have drinks but we didn’t. We were there for about 30 minutes during both visits.”
Rajendran, 57, was a Singaporean but was also based in Seremban. He was charged in 2011 for fixing matches involving T-Team, Pahang and Negri Sembilan but was released on bail.
In 2015, Rajendran claimed trial to corruption charges in Singapore for attempting to fix Timor Leste’s match against Malaysia in the SEA Games held in the Republic.

‘Helpless’

The former player admitted what he and his teammates had done was wrong.
He said his family knew matches were being fixed and they told him to find an exit plan.
“We had no one to turn to. We were helpless.
“It was difficult to get out as we had contracts. The FA started issuing us warning letters for our poor performances while there were those who wanted us to lose matches on purpose.”
The players in that squad were eventually hauled up by the FA of Malaysia and they pleaded guilty to fixing matches.
However, only five were banned for life and fined RM20,000 each at the end of the season.
Seventeen others were slapped with RM5,000 fines each in 2014 as the national body’s Disciplinary Board chairman Datuk Taufik Abdul Razak said they were “victims of circumstances”.
“The punishment was unfair … only a handful banned and others still allowed to play.
“What about the officials, the financiers? Why didn’t anyone go after them despite the players admitting to match-fixing?”
“I hope to see more bookies being booked to save Malaysian football.”

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