GFA shoots down AFC claim, says no evidence.
The Asian Football Confederation has red-flagged six matches of the Goa Professional League, from last year, for possible "match manipulation" but the state association on Monday said there was not enough evidence.
The AFC had written to the integrity officer of AIFF, Javed Siraj, in March informing about "suspicious betting patterns indicative of match manipulation" in six matches held between October 16 and November 19 last year.
Goa Football Association secretary Jovito Lopes said his organisation had conducted an investigation and also caught hold of one person -- Gabriel Fernandes -- who was giving ball-by-ball commentary of Goa League matches but said match-fixing could not be proved due to lack of evidence.
The matches involved local teams Calangute Association, Panjim Footballers, Guardian Angel Sports Club, FC Goa II and former I-League sides Dempo SC, Salgaocar and Sporting Clube de Goa.
Lopes went on to claim that the suspected person was caught red-handed while he was giving the commentary during an I-League match at Margao on March 8 this year between Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala FC.
"We have investigated after getting the letter but we can't conclude that there was match fixing. We don't have hard evidence. The AIFF can only give us evidence and conduct a thorough investigation," Lopes told PTI from Goa.
"We have sent our report to Mr. Siraj after our investigation on March 9 and we are yet to hear from the AIFF after that."
In his reply to the AIFF letter, Lopes said the suspected person carried an I-Card issued by the AIFF as the valid reporter of the Genius Group.
"It was on 08.03.2020 at Nehru Stadium, Fotorda, Margao that our vice-president, Mr. Anthony Pongo brought to the notice of GFA Secretary that there was one person in the stadium's west zone who was constantly on the mobile (phone), relaying the commentary of the Hero I-League match between Churchill Brothers vs (Gokulam) Kerala FC," Lopes said in his reply.
"...since the Genius Group is allegedly linked to Bet 365, the possibilities of online betting pretty is high, play by play. However, we have no proof or evidence in the matter.
"... the Genius Group's by AIFF needs to be seriously looked into."
Lopes said the "serious matter" was immediately brought to the notice of the match commissioner of the said I-League game.
"He (Match Commissioner) replied that he could not intervene and that it be reported to the AIFF which was done," the GFA secretary said.
"Further, our investigations with our Duler stadium manager, Mr. Anthony Lobo revealed that the same person was also attending Goa Professional League matches at Duler Stadium. He would purchase a ticket to enter the stadium and sit in the spectators' gallery and relay the match proceedings."
Reacting to the development, the AIFF said it follows a zero-tolerance policy to any form of corruption in the sport.
"AIFF Integrity Officer Mr. Javed Siraj is currently looking into monitored reports from Sportsradar, a company engaged by the Asian Football Confederation in reference to fixing allegations in the Goa Professional League which is hosted and conducted by the Goa Football Association (GFA)," it said.
"The AIFF Integrity officer has already followed it up twice, and is currently awaiting a reply from authorities in the GFA after explanations were sought in a letter in January 2020, which was followed up by an official visit in February 2020."
Lopes said there was no complaint lodged in Goa regarding possible match-fixing.
"I visited the Panjim Police station as there were rumours that a complaint over match-fixing was lodged by a Panjim-based football club. After meeting with two sub-inspectors and the head constable it was ascertained that no such complaint on match fixing was lodged.
"Further, our investigations also revealed that the contracts of a couple of players of a football club were terminated on alleged suspicion."
Delhi could see two teams in next I-League: AIFF president
All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel on Monday said Delhi could see two I-League teams in the upcoming season.
AIFF recently invited bids from non-I-League cities, including Delhi, Ranchi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bhopal, Lucknow and Ahmedabad, to compete in the 2020-21 season.
The previous season of the league saw 11 clubs, including AIFF's developmental outfit Indian Arrows.
However, reigning champions Mohun Bagan have merged with ATK and will play in the Indian Super League (ISL) from the upcoming season.
"Clubs from Delhi will be a reality soon in Hero I-league and there may be two teams from Delhi. I am personally looking into this aspect and no doubt Delhi football deserves a big focus being the capital city," Patel said during a programme organised by Football Delhi to mark the 36th birthday of India captain Sunil Chhetri.
He also highlighted the progress the AIFF has made over the last decade while emphasising on the need to "professionalise the sport".
"We have come a long way. Globally FIFA now acknowledges that Indian football has to be supported and strengthened for the sport to grow in the region. FIFA and AFC have made it clear that football has to be commercially viable and it has to support the overall ecosystem around it," he said.
"That is why it is important to professionalise the sport. The Hero I-League was the first step towards that. Now, the Hero ISL has taken it further and made more additions to Indian football," Patel added.
Chhetri said he received the "best birthday gift" when Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju announced the formation of five zonal committees to hunt talent across the country.
"I am really honoured to have my birthday celebrated as Delhi Football Day. It is like a dream, when you start playing, you never dream that your birthday will be made so special and for that I am really thankful to Football Delhi.
"Sports Minister Shri Kiren Rijiju making a commitment here to locate every football talent in India and if every talent is identified and nurtured well then half of the problem of Indian football is solved. It is the best birthday gift I can ask for," Chhetri said.
The skipper added that in a vast country like India finding talent is not an issue.
"Talent is not the problem here. We could have plenty of Olympic gold medals. I know how hard the AIFF works to get a bigger pool of players. It is very important to give the young talented players the right food, training and so on. When all this is done, it can be a monumental growth," he said.
Football Delhi president Shaji Prabhakaran said the state association was delighted to receive such an overwhelming response.
"It was very encouraging to hear from the distinguished speakers the potential of Indian football in general and Delhi football in particular.
"It was a perfect way to celebrate the birthday of Sunil Chhetri and we are honoured by the overwhelming response and attention Delhi football is receiving through this E-Summit," Prabhakaran said.
Meanwhile, Patel lauded the Odisha government for "setting an example of how a state government can help sports thrive in a particular region."
"I think states like Odisha need to be commended. They have actively supported every sport. That is something that other state governments should follow too."