9 Players Accused of Betting on SEA Games

Nine players on the national football team are under investigation for betting on matches in the Southeast Asian Games.

Khek Ravy, president of the Cambodian Football Federation, said Thursday that a committee was investigating allegations that players placed bets by telephone while in Vietnam, which hosted the SEA Games. He said evidence indicates they may have bet against their own team.

The squad dropped all three games it played, losing 8-1 to Malaysia in its opening game; 6-0 to Burma and 5-1 to Singapore in its final game on Dec 6.

The team trailed by no more than three goals at the halftime of each game. Street bookies in the capital set the line for Cambodia to lose by 3 to 5 goals in each match.

The poor showing led Prum Bunyi, Cabinet chief of the Na­tional Olympic Committee, to pub­licly insult the team this week and suggest that it quit international play.

Khek Ravy defended the federation Thursday but said many national team players were lazy and suffered from a weakness for excess. “They party too much,” he said. He would not name the players under investigation but said they were “prominent.”

One player said the federation was trying to deflect blame for the losses. “We love football,” said Chea Virath, 22. “That’s why we volunteered to play.”

Seven coaches and federation officials accompanied the team to the Games. Their duties included monitoring the players’ behavior to prevent any betting, Khek Ravy said. Making phone calls to Cam­bo­dia was forbidden, he said.

If the players are found guilty, the federation may appeal to the Federation Internationale de Football Association to ban them from participating in the sport in any professional league, he said.

Other national football associations in Southeast Asia have purged their organizations of players linked to gambling. More than 100 players and officials in Malaysia were arrested and questioned in connection to a bribery and betting scheme in 1998.

Gambling is illegal and punishable by fines and imprisonment. (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)


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