IT WAS an inconsequential international friendly between Bahrain and Togo, hardly names to set the football world alight.
But the ramifications from this match were to send shockwaves across the global football fraternity.
Bahrain had won 3-0 due to Togo’s inexplicably poor performance.
The match, played in Bahrain exactly a year ago tomorrow, might have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that the Togolese side was a fake national team.
The resulting probes by the media, including The New Paper, would blow the lid on match-fixing and prompt world football body Fifa to take stern action.
Now, for the first time, the architect of that game, Wilson Raj Perumal, has revealed how that match was fixed.
In a series of letters to TNP, he said that although he had fixed the match, he had no idea the Togolese side was not the national team.
He also revealed that not only were Togo’s players paid to lose, the referee was also paid to keep the scoreline low.
Wilson Raj, 46, said the plan was to use Togolese football players from the Chan Cup, also known as African Nations Championship (not to be confused with the African Nations Cup), for the match against Bahrain.
The Singaporean, who was sentenced to two years’ jail on July 19 for match-fixing in Finland, said: “All African teams comprise a national team and a Chan Cup team. The Chan Cup team is a team with domestic-based players.
“These domestic players were supposed to be part of the Togo team (against Bahrain). But I honestly was not aware of the fake team.”
He added: “The (Togolese) players were told to ‘die’ on the field and keep the scoreline low.”
The problem was that some people knew of the planned fix, Wilson Raj said.
Aware of his links with the Togo team, some punters jumped the gun and bet on Togo to lose by four goals or more.
So Wilson Raj decided to opt for a lower scoreline and decided to bribe the referee as well.
He said he engaged the services of Ibrahim Chaibou, a referee from Niger.
Added Wilson Raj: “You will now understand why five goals were ruled offside in that match.”
And that was how the Kelong King made a killing on that match, although he did not disclose the exact amount to TNP.
It’s not known how much Wilson Raj had paid Mr Chaibou, but a local source had said previously that corrupt players and referees could earn between $10,000 and $50,000 a match.
The referee is under investigation by Fifa for the Bahrain v Togo match and another match, where Nigeria beat Argentina 4-1 in June this year.
TNP’s attempts to reach Mr Chaibou were unsuccessful and reports from Africa say he has gone missing.
Wilson Raj was linked to the Bahrain v Togo match after a spokesman for the Bahrain Football Association (BFA) told TNP that the match had been arranged by a “Singapore-based, Fifa-approved agent”.
When TNP spoke to Wilson Raj last October, he had denied any wrongdoing, admitting to paying only the airfare and accommodation for the Togo team.
Wilson Raj, who had been on the run from the Singapore authorities since July last year, was also linked with other dubious matches.
He was arrested in Finland in February this year, betrayed by a business rival who tipped off the Finnish police.
What Wilson Raj told the Finnish police opened the floodgates on match-fixing and put Singapore on the world map for the wrong reasons.
The resulting global investigation by Fifa exposed Singaporeans as major players in global match-fixing.
Wilson Raj told investigators how his syndicate operated and named players who had received as much as 470,000 euros (S$800,000) from him.
As a result, more than 10 footballers in Finland were charged.
Football club Tampere United was booted out of the 2011 Finnish season for accepting 300,000 euros from a company Wilson Raj had represented.
Last month, he filed an appeal against his sentence.
Lapland District Court prosecutor Maija Mononen told TNP: “He demands a shorter jail term because he says he has been helpful in providing information to the Finnish investigators. He is asking for his sentence to be shortened to a year and six months.”
Wilson Raj’s lawyer did not reply to our e-mail queries by press time.
TNP report from Sept 16, 2010