Coaching ● Sep 25, 2017

Integrity and Ethics Take Centre Stage in ‘A’ Coaching Course


Integrity and Ethics Take Centre Stage in ‘A’ Coaching Course

With match-fixing back in the spotlight following reports on irregular betting patterns at August’s Southeast Asian Games, the talk on integrity and ethics in football conducted by experts from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as part of the week-long final module of the AFC ‘A’ Coaching Certificate Course was perhaps more relevant than ever.

Held on Wednesday 20 September, the talk was given by Hassan Haider Khan and Mohammad Yazid Zakaria from the AFC Integrity Department. It is the first time that AFC has conducted the talk at a coaching course conducted by a Member Association. With their experience dealing with match-fixing at the regional level, the two integrity officers were able to provide participants with deeper insight into the subject matter.

Thanking the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for “their efforts in safeguarding the integrity of football”, an AFC spokesperson said: “Considering match-fixing is one of the greatest threats to football, this initiative (inviting AFC to conduct the session) is highly commendable and a critical element of combating match-fixing.

“The AFC is fully committed towards working closely with all its Member Associations, including the Football Association of Singapore, to ensure our players, teams and competitions conform to the highest ethical and professional standards.”

Invitations to the talk were extended to coaches from various clubs, Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) and National Teams. The talk was also attended by principal of the ActiveSG Football Academy Aleksandar Duric and FAS Technical Director Michel Sablon. As it is the coaches who know and work most closely with the players, they are in the best position to identify suspicious behaviour from their players. The responsibility to explain the pitfalls of game manipulation to the players and guiding them away from the path also lies with them.

Former National Team captain Nazri Nasir, who is now Assistant Coach of the Under-20 National Team, was one of the attendees at the talk. He said: “Match-fixing happens everywhere. When I was a player, I heard stories of players being approached by match-fixers and I also attended similar talks on this by local crime prevention organisations. Attending this talk given by AFC as a coach offered me a different perspective. It gave me more knowledge on the situation and at least we are now aware of what to do if anything happens to our players.”

Discussions on the ways that the game can be compromised was supplemented by real-life case studies. Among the case studies, one of the most eye-opening was a video of a former match-fixer’s account of his downward spiral into the illegal activity, beginning from his time as a player. While the lure of money is often a key reason players get involved, he added that other reasons include threats by match-fixers and pressure from senior players in the team.

The speakers also divulged that if one is found to be aware of yet did not report any illegal sports betting activity, one can be sanctioned by the governing body. Accordingly, the speakers detailed pertinent information such as the avenues for whistleblowing and AFC’s investigation processes.

Persija Jakarta Under-19 Head Coach Jan Bonardin Saragih, who is one of the participants in the ‘A’ Coaching Certificate Course, felt that the talk is especially significant for youth coaches like himself as youths are one of the key groups that match-fixers target. Now equipped with knowledge on how to deal with such situations should they arise, he will be sharing it with his players so that they are aware of what they should and should not do.

The integrity officers also disclosed startling statistics – such as how there were billions circulated through illegal sports betting on football matches, and that match-fixing has been identified even at Under-14 age-group competitions.

While compromises to the game’s integrity is less prevalent in women’s football, Head Coach of the Under-16 Women’s National Team Yeong Sheau Shyan explained that it is still necessary for women’s coaches to be aware of the situation.

“Match-fixing may not be immediately relevant to women’s football, but it may happen anytime so it is helpful for us and the players to know how to handle ourselves should we be faced with it,” she pointed out.

JCOE East Centre 2 Head Coach and National Football Academy Under-16 Assistant Coach Mohamed Farhan concurred with Sheau Shyan that understanding how to react when they are privy to any information relating to match-fixing is vital. Already aware of the dangers of getting involved in illegal betting activities, learning about the avenues for whistleblowing was more salient for him.

Agreeing with Farhan’s assessment on the key takeaway of the course, FIFA and AFC Coaching Instructor Vincent Subramaniam added that it is crucial for the coaches to be aware of the avenues they have to report suspicious activities. Having attended this talk, it is now the coaches’ duty to reach out to their players to pass on the knowledge to them.

Subramaniam said: “In today’s world, there are many chances for people to fall prey to such “get rich quick” schemes. As the targets are usually very young and naive, they might not see the threats. It would be difficult for them to get out (of the situation) in future, so it is very important that the coaches bring back the information to the players.”

On behalf of FAS, Head of Coach Education Mohamed Basir Ellaya Kutty extends his thanks to AFC for appointing the experts to give the talk and to SportSG for providing the Black Box Auditorium in the Singapore Sports Hub to conduct the session.