Almanack: Deep throat pulls the plug

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The Independent Online
ALMANACK has never been keen on mobile telephones, believing that they smack of spivvery and sharp practice. So we were not surprised to learn that a state football association in Malaysia's professional league has banned players from using the infernal devices before matches in an effort to combat an epidemic of match fixing.

The Star newspaper, an authoritative source in the region, reported last week that the Football Association of Sabah has banned players from using mobile phones for at least two days before each match, and forbidden their use on coach journeys to away matches.

The ban was instigated after the Sabah team manager Jahid Jahim became embroiled in a Watergate-style investigation, complete with anonymous 'Deep Throat'. Sabah had been drubbed 7-0 by unfancied Singapore in an M-League match, and Jahid said that he had received a tape 'from an unknown person' that recorded one of his players apparently haggling with a bookmaker over money to fix the match. Jahim lost no time in filing a report to the local police, and demanding an investigation into his team.

The Asian Football Confederation General-Secretary, Peter Vellapan, has described match fixing as a 'cancer' throughout South-east Asia, but said the situation had improved in Malaysia and Singapore. It is believed that the Sabah players had taken to using mobile telephones to talk to bookmakers in an effort to avoid having their illicit conversations bugged by the authorities. The next time they decide to 'throw' a game they should perhaps consider losing by a rather less emphatic margin.

It will be recalled that one of Raymond Illingworth's first actions on assuming control of the England cricket team was to ban portable dog-and-bones. Surely none of our heroic lads were indulging in latter-day Lillee-and-Marshery?

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