Fri, May 17, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Singapore legend fires match-fixing warning

AFP, SINGAPORE

Singapore legend Aleksandar Duric has warned match-fixing poses a major threat to the development of Asian soccer as he prepares to wrap up one of the sport’s most extraordinary and prolific careers.

The 42-year-old striker, a former Olympic kayaker who traveled from war-torn Bosnia to score nearly 400 goals in Singapore’s S.League, said Asia’s rise was being compromised by corruption.

“We saw so many cases in China and South Korea — it’s getting out of hand. Something needs to be done drastically because sooner or later you’re going to have a big problem,” he told reporters in an interview. “If you lose the trust of the fans ... that’s the biggest problem. And once it comes into the fans’ heads, we’re going to lose all the fans — and what’s the point of playing in empty stadiums?”

Duric scored twice on Sunday to reach 382 goals in 461 S.League games — by far the most top-flight strikes by any active player worldwide, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

The rangy, 1.92m target man has been terrorizing Singaporean defenses since arriving in the city-state via Sweden, Hungary, China, Australia and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in 1999.

Since then, he has won seven S.League titles with three different teams and is in line to finish his career with an eighth, with his club Tampines Rovers five points clear halfway through the season.

GRIZZLED

The grizzled father of two has been named S.League player of the year three times, top-scorer twice and has totted up a goal nearly every other game since gaining Singaporean citizenship and making his international debut in 2007.

Last year, he was instrumental in his adopted country’s march to a record fourth victory in Southeast Asia’s AFF Suzuki Cup, becoming Singapore’s oldest scorer along the way.

During Duric’s time in the region, Asian soccer has grown in stature with its first World Cup, more professional leagues, better players and increasing competition between national teams, although deep-seated problems remain.

He urged authorities, especially global governing body FIFA, to crack down on match-fixing after scandals across Asia — including Singapore — and worldwide raised grave fears for the sport’s integrity.

“This issue of match-fixing, we really need to hit hard because it’s really getting out of control,” Duric said. “It’s not good for football in Asia, it’s not good for football worldwide.”

“FIFA is the one which should really do something. At the moment I don’t see that they’re doing much, they’re pushing this issue to the countries where match-fixing comes from, but they should really look closely at this because it’s really spreading around the world, spreading around Europe in countries which you’d really never believe: Germany, Austria, Slovakia,” he added.

Singapore’s long association with match-fixing dates back to the early 1990s and Interpol has blamed Singaporean criminals for orchestrating an international network responsible for rigging hundreds of games worldwide.

However, Duric insisted that in 14 years in Singapore he had never been approached or even heard of other players being asked to rig games, with lie-detector tests and the threat of tough penalties keeping players in line.

“Definitely, I think this is the cleanest league in Southeast Asia ... but what’s happening outside, this is a different issue,” he said.

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