A Singapore court jailed a Lebanese referee for six months on Tuesday for accepting sexual favours to fix a soccer game, a day after two fellow countrymen were jailed for the same offence amid an international investigation into soccer corruption.
Ali Sabbagh, a Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)-accredited referee, had admitted having sex with a woman hired by accused Singapore match-fixer Ding Si Yang, who has denied wrongdoing.
Ali Sabbagh and two Lebanese assistant referees were convicted of accepting sexual bribes to fix a future match, but no specific game was identified by the prosecution.He was withdrawn as referee only hours before an Asian Football Federation match between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal on April 3.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the official media in Singapore is keeping this story at arm's length. Today runs with an AP article, while the Straits Times apparently can't even be bothered to acknowledge the story. Goal.com's Singapore site (helmed by the always excellent Cesare) at least gives the story a bit of run.Singapore has been the focus of a probe into soccer match-fixing, with European anti-crime agency Europol saying in February that hundreds of matches had been fixed by a global betting syndicate based in the Southeast Asian city-state.
It's disappointing how little play incidents like these get, especially when you consider how they fit into the larger picture of corruption in soccer. Some great investigative work by Declan Hill, the Invisible Dog team and others has illuminated the shadowy underbelly of illegal betting and match-fixing that continues to plague the world's game. Careers and lives are being ruined and the very integrity of soccer is at stake, but because certain high-ranking officials desperately want to preserve the appearance of Singapore being an oasis of clean governance, the likes of Dan Tan and the Kelong Kings are free to operate with impunity. Match-fixing has tarnished World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Champions League matches and leagues of increasingly prominent stature -- even the United States isn't free from this scourge. FIFA, meanwhile, continues its cosmetic campaign of raging against the symptoms but allowing the disease to roll merrily on. Odd how FIFA is reticent to pull the trigger in one of the rare instances when its leaning on a government might actually do some good.