Michal Vana: The fugitive accused match-fixer who fled Singapore by boat
Twenty-three years later, Vana claims he wants to return to the country to explain his side of the story, even if lands him in prison.
In 1994, I met some people who asked me to do some business ... I didn’t know these people were also bookmakers
The football fugitive – which is also the title of a new documentary about Vana’s incredible life – has been lying low in his homeland of the Czech Republic ever since fleeing Singapore.
Among the claims made by one of the most controversial figures in Singaporean and Southeast Asian sporting history is that he was treated unfairly by Singapore police.
Say Vana’s name and anyone with even the faintest interest in Singapore and Malaysian football will stop what they are doing.
The fact he has barely been seen for over 20 years just adds to the mystery.
Vana, a star for the Singapore team that was on its way to winning that year's Malaysia League title, was charged by police with match-fixing in August 1994.
He was not the first or the last to be so accused, although he was more talented than most.
If the bookmaker won some money, he would give me some money. I was very happy because I make maybe more than the Football Association gave me
It all began when he made friends with bookmaker Rajandren ‘Pal’ Kurusamy – and quickly started making huge amounts of money.
“In 1994, I met some people who asked me to do some business,” Vana recalls in the documentary ‘The Football Fugitive: The Michal Vana Story ', to be released later this year.
“I didn’t know these people were also bookmakers. He asked me if I had ever influenced the game. He told me he wants me to play very hard, full all the time.
“(I said) ‘I play always like this, what are you talking about?’ He said 'listen Michal, we are betting, we want for you to score more goals'.
“If the bookmaker won some money, he would give me some money. I was very happy because I make maybe more than the Football Association gave me.
”So I said ‘why not? I will do it’.”
Being paid to play well, if true, may sound fairly harmless, but it is still illegal.
They found on me $30,000 or $40,000 Singapore dollars. They took this money and asked me to go with them to my house
Not only that, players may agree to score no more than a certain amount of goals and, of course, those on the other team can be bribed to play badly.
Whatever the ins and outs, Vana reportedly made around SGD$400,000, a tidy sum today and obviously more so back in 1994.
In August it all came to a head when Vana was pulled over and searched by police following a visit to Kurusamy.
“I went to visit Mr. Pal. When I left his house, the police caught me and from this time, my problems started,” Vana reveals in the documentary.
“They found on me $30,000 or $40,000 Singapore dollars. They took this money and asked me to go with them to my house.
“When we get to my house maybe five, six, seven police wake up my kids and my wife and tried to find some money, but they didn’t find anything. I didn’t have any money at home.”
According to Vana, he could have been set free if he had given evidence against Kurusamy, but he refused and had his passport was taken.
His next task was clarifying the charge sheet handed to him by the police, which Vana told police contained a number of errors. It would prove a costly move.