Not a Happy Valley!

May 17, 2023 09:49
Photo: RTHK/Facebook

Bad news does not come singly in Happy Valley!

Days after Hong Kong Jockey Club suspended the two jockeys Vagner Borges and Silvestre de Sousa for their betting offences, more shocking news came from Happy Valley Athletic Association(HVAA), one of the oldest football clubs in Hong Kong with 73 years of history.

Watchdog Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested 23 people including 11 footballers from HVAA of Hong Kong’s first division along with the head coach Chill Chiu and members of a bookmaking syndicate suspected of match-fixing this season.

ICAC found "suspected fraudulent activity and missteps" in 26 matches played this season of which HVAA won eight, drew five, lost 13, and ended up 10th in the 14-team division.

These players in question coordinated with the syndicate on rigging a game by not playing with a negative attitude. They also communicated with coded movements, such as bending over and adjusting their socks or putting up the hoods of their sweatshirts to manipulate the results.

Match rigging among local matches is not a new thing. That explains why Hong Kong Jockey Club did not offer local football match betting, but some foreign betting websites accepted betting on these local football matches.

ICAC found out that these players, some of whom would get a few thousand in monthly salary, were offered up to HK$10,000 per match for their assistance.

The low pay reflected how unpopular football in Hong Kong has become in the last 20 years after the localization of players ironically advocated by none other than HVAA ex-chairman and pro-China business heavyweight Henry Fok Ying-tung.

In its hey days, HVAA was once the contending club for Division A along with rivals such as South China Football Club but the lack of sponsorship forced the club to cut back on its running cost.

It was not the first time that HVAA was involved in bribery. In May 2010, ICAC arrested four players for suspected bribery and match-fixing. Top scorer Yu Yang was sentenced to 10 months in jail after pleading guilty. In January 2014, seven HVAA coaching staff and players were arrested at the team’s dressing room at Tsing Yi Sports Ground immediately after a loss of 0-5 to Sun Hei.

After three strikes, the shameful HVAA should be out.

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EJ Insight writer