Was it all fair and square in M-League?

The M-League came to an end this week, but Tony Mariadass wants the elephant in the room to be addressed: was it all decided in the true sportsmanship spirit where the best teams wrested the honours?

In the Super League, the battle for honours went down to the wire when Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) became champions after defeating Sarawak by a solitary goal in Kuching. JDT needed to win their final league match against the Crocs to win the title. If they had lost and Selangor had defeated Selangor PKNS in their final game, the title could have gone to the Red Giants.

While it was said that it was a forgone conclusion that Selangor will beat relegation bound PKNS, the match surprisingly ended in a 2-2 draw. There were many other surprising results this season and many teams like the LionsXII, ATM, Kelantan and Sarawak, who were all expected to do well, had either been struggling or suffered a spate of poor results to pull them down in the table.

And in the Premier League, Police, who had gone on a recruitment drive including the hiring of Malaysia Cup winning coach Dollah Salleh, were runaway champions. Like most sides a division above them, they too had some embarrassing moments including losing in the final league match 3-2 to Kedah, which certainly raised eyebrows. FA Cup champions Pahang going down 3-0 to almost relegated Perak in their final game was another result which was shocking.

While both PDRM and Pahang coaches claimed that they fielded a few fringe first-team players that did not rise to the occasion, surely a champion team cannot go bad overnight. The lack of urgency of some players is certainly questionable of their professional code of conduct. Whether or not there were some hidden hands who determined results is everyone’s guess…

Of course, in football, upsets do happen and sometimes the favourites encounter disappointment, and I would like to believe that the M-League was ended with true sportsmanship displayed by all teams. But after following local football for more than 30 years, sometimes I would notice there were instances where doubts can be casted.

While we all would like to believe that all competitions were all competed in the true spirit of fair play, one cannot rule out that some match results looked suspicious. There have been cases in the past where players, coaching staff and even match officials being hauled up for alleged match-fixing. Whether or not this menace has been eradicated totally is another one million ringgit question, but as long as betting on matches is prevalent – be it legal or illegal – the suspicion of match fixing cannot be ruled out.

It is wise that the FAM, State FAs and the police continuously monitor matches and, if there is the slightest suspicion of unhealthy activities, haul up the suspects to investigate thoroughly. The last thing Malaysian football needs is another match-fixing scandal.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the M-League has been exciting in the past few years and testimony to that is the huge turnout of fans at all stadia. And it is all the more reason for players and officials to respect and honour the diehard fans and give their very best each time they take the field and not take the fans for granted.

Let us hope that the upcoming Malaysia Cup competition will be exciting and there will be no reasons to cast any doubts on any results of performance of players, teams or match officials.

(Photo Credit: Zulkifly Abdul Hamid / www.asiana.my)