Sunday, December 25, 2005

Vietnam SEA Games footballers jailed for graft

Two Vietnam national footballers under arrest for alleged match-fixing, will be detained by police for four months for further investigation, under a decision approved by prosecutors. The national Under-23 team's leading striker Pham Van Quyen and midfielder Le Quoc Vuong are accused of seeking to arrange results of matches during the South East Asia Games in the Philippines earlier this month.

Van Quyen has admitted to police his role in match-fixing attempts, media reported. "Please forgive me and give me a way to return. I promise not to take part in negative activities any more. I wish I can get back to the football field,'"Van Quyen said in an interview recorded by state-run television. Van Quyen was quoted in the police-run An Ninh Thu Do newspaper as telling investigators he received 20 million dong (US$ 1,260) from Vuong for helping him fix the game.

Police also summoned a former player of the national team, Nguyen Phi Hung, for questioning. He is suspected of playing a key role in the case. Hung, as well as Van Quyen and Quoc Vuong, are all drawn from the Song Lam Nghe An football club which has provided many players to the national team.

State media has also mounted concerted attacks on Vietnam Football Federation vice chairman Le The Tho over the fraud allegations. "Tho should have been more active in cooperating with authorised agencies to punish those that stepped on the nation's honour," said the youth daily Thanh Nien, which has led a media onslaught against graft in Vietnamese football.

Tho, who was in charge of the Under-23 team during the games, told VFF officials that he only learned of match-fixing attempts two minutes before the match with Myanmar, the newspaper said. However, he did not inform other officials nor the national coach, Austrian Alfred Riedl. "Tho must be held accountable for the fact that many players had gambled, and organised results in several matches," Thanh Nien commented.

Vietnamese football is under intense scrutiny, with police already investigating fraud allegations implicating some 90 referees, coaches and players in the professional V-League.

See also: Vietnam PM calls for police speed on match fixing (21 Dec) and Latest football match-fixing "must be eliminated" (18 Oct).

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