Bangladesh League football is plagued with match fixing. It has been quite some time some time now that teams have been fixing matches, exchanging points to become the champion or to prevent relegation on the point table.
But now online betting strikes the country’s club football arena. A section of players and officials of Arambagh Krira Sangha, who were allegedly involved in casino scandal, are playing a pivotal role in this betting too. Not only Arambagh KS, but Brothers Union Football Club is also involved in this betting.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been informed of the anomalies taking place in Dhaka’s club football. Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) sent letters to Arambagh KS and Brothers Union seeking an explanation regarding the allegations of online betting made against them.
Arambagh KS was supposed to respond to the BFF’s by Sunday. The general secretary of the club Md. Yakub Ali has already told BFF that those who have sponsored their football team are the ones who are suspected of online betting.
On the other hand, Amer Khan, manager of Brothers Union FC, said they issued a counter letter to BFF seeking to know specifically what allegations had been made against them.
What is online betting?
Online betting not only determines the winning or losing of a team, it also fixes how many goals will a team concede and how many cards (red, yellow) will players get for fouls. Although Bangladesh law prohibits online betting, it runs through various betting websites on the internet.
Arambagh involvement in betting
Multiple sources of the team claimed two Arambagh officials, an Indian coach and some players fixed the match through online betting. The club authorities fired the Indian coach after the last Federation Cup over allegations of betting.
At first, players of the club started suspecting Subrata Bhattacharya, former Indian coach of Arambagh, as he kept a mobile phone with him in team’s dugout during the match of federation cup even though it was prohibited
On the same charges, Gawhar Jahangir, the then manager of the club, was relieved of his duties on 14 February. The involvement of Arambagh's coaches, some players and officials in online betting has also come into light in investigations of Prothom Alo.
The club scored seven goals out of nine matches so far in the current premier football league but conceded the highest 32 goals. Earlier, they had scored 4 goals in 3 matches of the Federation Cup and conceded 4 goals.
Although they only won a match in the Federation Cup, they still remain winless in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). Some players think that the team is conceding more goals now because of its involvement in online betting.
At first, players of the club started suspecting Subrata Bhattacharya, former Indian coach of Arambagh, as he kept a mobile phone with him in team’s dugout during the match of federation cup even though it was prohibited.
In the match against North Baridhara on 26 December, some players saw the coach standing in the dugout talking on his mobile phone. A player, who requested to be anonymous, said, “At the end of the second half, I was surprised to see him talking over the phone. The coach was saying something about Christopher, a Nigerian striker, and Smith, an Australian defender. Arambagh lost that match by 2-3 goals.”
The coach returned to the India on 3 January after the completion of federation club. Refuting the allegation of talking over phone in team’s dugout, he told Prothom Alo that “I usually keep the phone in my pocket. I put the timer on it. Sometimes I use it to see the stopwatch. I didn’t talk over phone.”
On the contrary, he alleged that his phone was stolen from the hotel room before he left the country.
“I don't know why the phone was stolen. Maybe I had some evidence. As seen on CCTV footage, club people went to my room,” the coach added.
After the last match of Arambagh in the federation cup, six footballers of the team met Yakub Ali, general secretary of the club, and expressed their doubts.
Yakub Ali told Prothom Alo that “Some players came to me and reported the matter. I found the Indians involved in this. There were two Indian agents named Azizul and Maidul who brought in foreign players and coaches. Later I realized that the coach was also involved with these two. Then, we paid off their arrears and sent them away.”
A source of the team claimed that coach and the two officials of the club formed the team with the players who can assist in betting. Although Subrata has claimed that he is not involved in betting, he indicates the involvement of others in the club.
Whoever met them [Minhazul and Gawhar] came to us afterwards and told everything he instructed. They had been asked to make five throws and three corners before the first half finished
“Don’t force me to reveal the names [of the officials]. Ask the players. Officials from Nilphamari usually met me. They handed over a list of players to me and asked to play this team,” he said.
Two officials from Nilphamari in Arambagh club are Minhazul Islam and Gawhar Jahangir. Minhazul Islam, former general secretary of Bashundhara Kings Club, expressed interest in forming a team by arranging sponsors for the club before this season.
But the club did not know that he was sacked from the Bashundhara Kings. So, when Minhazul showed interest in forming a team, the club, which was in a financial crisis, was relieved of its burden.
Then Minhazul appointed the Gawhar as the manager of the football team. Along with appointing Indian coaching staff, the duo managed everything of the club. Before almost every match, the two officials used to hold separate meetings with some of the new players of the team, said several players of the club.
A player, requested to be unnamed, said, “Whoever met them [Minhazul and Gawhar] came to us afterwards and told everything he instructed. They had been asked to make five throws and three corners before the first half finished.”
The player also claimed that another player of the team asked him to make five corners within the first half. He was offered Tk50,000 if he did as told.
In the first match of premier league, Arambagh lost the match with Mohammedan Sporting Club by 3-0 goals. Another player of the team told Prothom Alo about a matter happened before the match that “Minhaz bhai asked me to appear in the Whatsapp video chat where he said “You just tell him.” A foreign player was also appeared in that chat.”
Abahani defeated Arambagh in the premier league by 4-0 goals in Munshiganj on 13 February. Gawhar was relieved of his duties the next day. Yakub Ali said they made the decision based on Minhazul's allegations. On the other hand, Gawhar told the general secretary that Minhazul was also involved in betting.
What the accused say
Gawhar and Minhazul have denied the allegations of involvement in online betting. Gawhar said, “There was no talk of betting in front of me.” He claimed that he had resigned from the team manager post. And Minhazul said, “I don’t know who is saying what. I have tried to help this team financially.”
He also claimed that he did not speak to any player on any WhatsApp video call.
Gawhar’s pointed his finger at the team's goalkeeper Abul Kashem. Kashem may have been involved in the betting, which is why we did not allow him to play at the first half of the match against Sheikh Russell on 9 February.
However, Kashem said, “I have never been attached with these things. I don’t know anything about these matters. If they have evidence, they can prove it.”
Allegation against Brother’s Union FC
Abu Naeem, general secretary of BFF, told Prothom Alo on Saturday that along with Arambagh, there are also allegations against Brothers Union for fixing matches as well as conducting online betting.
“We are working on specific allegations about three premier league matches of Arambagh and two of the Brothers Union. There are allegations of match-fixing, spot-fixing and online betting. The AFC also informed about the matter.”
BFF raised questions against three matches of Arambagh against Mohammedan, Sheikh Russell Krira Chakra and Abahani Limited. The suspicious matches of Brothers' Union are against Abahani and Bashundhara Kings.
BFF has already received some explanations from the two clubs about the alleged fixed matches. “The match-fixing committee will work on the issues later,” said Abu Naeem.
This report appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, and has been rewritten in English by NH Sajjad