KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: New questions have been raised about football in Bahrain while Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa was head of the state’s football federation.
Two weeks ago Sheikh Salman, since 2013 the president of the Asian confederation and a FIFA vice-president, was defeated decisively by Gianni Infantino in an election for the leadership of the world federation.
His campaign had been surrounded by controversy over allegations concerning his role as a member of the ruling royal family after a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 2011. He denied all allegations of complicity in brutality.
Shortly before the election details emerged of the notorious international friendly in 2009 in which Bahrain beat a ‘false’ team from Togo 3-0 during Sheikh Salman’s leadership of the BFA.
The match was set up by the convicted matchfixer Wilson Raj Perumal though, again, there was no suggestion that Sheikh Salman was involved in any of the details of the match.
However concerns about what he may have known – or not known – have been revived after revelations concerning a string of Bahrain international matches. These suggest clearly that the Togo match was not a one-off.
World Cup tie
A report in the French media has claimed that at least five Bahrain international matches between 2009 and 2012 were fixed. These included an important regional World Cup qualifying match.
The matches were investigated by FIFA but without any substantive proof being uncovered.
The matches were:
Bahrain 5, Zimbabwe 2: March 23, 2009;
Bahrain 4, Iran 2: August 31, 2009;
Bahrain 5, Togo 1: November 6, 2009;
Bahrain 3, Togo 0: September 7, 2010; and
Bahrain 10, Indonesia 0: February 29, 2012.
The Indonesia World Cup tie was the match which attracted greatest concern.
The Indonesian goalkeeper was sent off after only three minutes as Bahrain went on to secure the victory they needed, by a minimum nine goals, to have any hope of qualifying for the next round. Two of their goals came from penalties.
A monitoring company reported that heavy betting patterns had been observed for an Indonesia defeat by between five and nine goals.
The other four Bahrain matches were reportedly all organised by Perumal who has since admitted to having masterminded the fixing of matches not only in Asia but also in Europe and central America.
Perumal had convinced Sheikh Salman’s BFA, falsely, that he was a licensed FIFA agent on behalf of a Singapore-based company named Football 4U.