The filth of corruption in sport has always been here, but since Bangladesh is not a major international player, the rot had never been a major issue.
Players gave up games at the behest of club officials in what is termed a “game of compromise” to help some other struggling club to survive in a league, and all parties complicit decided the best course of action was to stay silent about it and let it slide.
Most retired football players have played “making games” as fixed matches are termed within the players’ circle, although, if asked officially, they will feign ignorance. Naturally, you must be wondering, how come this writer knows so much when the whole affair has always been kept under wraps? When professional football players are your friends, sharing all their experiences, there is hardly anything that one does not get to know.
Right, getting back to fixing matches, Ashraful’s blowing of the lid has jolted the nation, sending ripples globally, because Bangladesh is a major contender in world-class cricket.
Until recently, scandals involving match-fixing in cricket had never come to light, making us believe that we managed to keep the game relatively unsullied. But when big bucks, glamour, women and extravagant tournaments come to the scene, avarice begins to rear its head.
Sorry, can’t call that an ugly head because modern day corruption in cricket is meticulously packaged with eye-popping razzmatazz and sensuous feminine seduction.
It’s morally rotten alright, but in no means repulsive, especially the way it’s projected to lure players.
Now that Ashraful is in the middle of a storm after dropping a bombshell of being involved in fixed matches, the whole image of the game is being re-assessed. But it seems that pointing the finger solely at Ashraful is an unfair thing to do. Yes, he was forced to make an unethical compromise but the blame possibly rests more on the person or people who ordered him to drop a match.
Here is a hypothetical scenario: club management comes and orders a player to take it easy on the field and stop worrying about the result.
The inherent message is clear – let it go; and the player, in order to stay in the club and carry-on in his profession, complies. But what if the player refuses on the grounds of sports ethics and walks away? He is alone out there with no team to play for.
In time, the player fades away, his ethics coming back to haunt/mock him while the clubs go on with officials finding new players willing to listen and carry out orders. Listen first, hang the conscience at home!
Ashraful has cried publicly, asking forgiveness, and by doing so has become noble, much better than all those politicians who are often found knee-deep in corruption but brazenly defend their integrity despite proof to the contrary and public condemnation.
Strangely, these corrupt politicians also get pardoned by their electorate and are often seen to come back to power. Surely, if such repulsive creatures can be forgiven then we can very well accept Ashraful’s heartfelt apology.
To give a better example, if a nation which once united to bring down an autocrat manages to tolerate him and even vote for him then a sportsman should be permitted a second chance.
After all, look at Bangladeshi politics as a whole - when one party comes to power and after a while starts behaving arbitrarily, voters decide to bring it down and put the other main party into power. When the new one also begins to emulate the previous government, voters go back to the one they voted out of power.
All this happens in the hopes that, maybe, this time, it will get better, though it never does. So, if we can make the same mistakes again and again there is no valid reason why sportspeople should not be given a second chance.
Of course there must be a probe, but we need to see the actual match fixers caught. This means the brains behind the operation and not the tentacles. It’s very easy to find a player, put the blame on him and impose heavy punishment while the main engineers of dark deeds go on pretending to be clean.
Matches are fixed for staggering amounts of money of which the player involved gets a share but major portions end up in the pockets of those anonymous higher ups. This is a known fact, therefore, let’s not carry out a probe while keeping certain people outside the purview of investigation.
Since we have found that corruption has entered our game, the investigation needs to be thorough without any special favours, especially to those that reek of “political backing.”
Also, to look at the issue from a social perspective, the line between the corrupt and the just has become somewhat vague these days where the ideology among the young is to make money at any cost.
Lamentably, black money, allowed to become white under government auspices, acts as an extra incentive! The real message from the revelation about fixing games is about a society which has no scruples in giving up values in the name of profit. This trend is indeed a vicious one, affecting all layers of life.
Ashraful made a mistake, but to truly understand venality in sports the behind-the-game machinations need to be exposed.
Let’s not forget: the first emotional instinct of a player for his/her sport is love; without it, a person would never become a professional sport personality in the first place.
That feeling only becomes tainted once the player is faced with the vile aspects of the game. Neither Ashraful nor any other player ever comes to sports thinking about making money by getting involved in fixed matches – the very idea goes against the spirit of fair competition.
Shall we then forgive the sportsman and look for the ones who spoil the true spirit of sports?