Sagar Thapa, Anjan KC, Sandeep Rai, Bikash Singh Chhetri and Ritesh Thapa.(Left to Right)
KATHMANDU, June 8: The Special Court on Thursday has acquitted five former footballers including former national team captain Sagar Thapa and an official who were accused of being involved in match fixing in Nepal’s international games.
A three-member bench of justices Baburam Regmi, Narayan Prasad Pokharel and Pramod Kumar Shrestha acquitted former captain Thapa, former vice-captain Sandeep Rai, defender Bikash Singh Chhetri, goalkeeper Ritesh Thapa, former player and coach Anjan KC and team physiotherapist Dejiv Thapa on charges of match-fixing.
The Nepal Police Metropolitan Division, in collaboration with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), had arrested the former national players accusing them of fixing Nepal’s international matches on different occasions under financial influence of bookies based in Malaysia and Singapore.
They were charged in accordance with the articles 62 and 69 according to the AFC Disciplinary Code in charge of fixing different matches of the national team played from 2008 to 2012.
AFC had said that the process leading to the arrests began when suspicious betting patterns were detected on a number of matches played by the Nepali national team. A year-long investigation followed, involving matches stretching back to 2008 with further intelligence gathering revealing suspicious financial transactions linked to Nepali nationals. The intelligence gathered was shared with the Nepal Police and an investigation began which had led to five arrests.
The accused admitted to police officials of their involvement in match fixing of international football matches since 2008. However, they had refuted the indictment made against them in the court.
With the allegations leveled against them for match-fixing, the AFC had banned them in international football matches.
On October 14, 2015, captain Thapa and his four associates were arrested for match fixing. The case was filed against them for conspiring against the state. They, however, were released on bail on November 10 last year. KC and Ritesh Thapa paid Rs 500,000 each, the captain paid Rs 150,000, and the rest paid Rs 50,000 each in bail.
Thapa said that the three years he lived without football was very difficult and he spent the time training on his own.
“Without football, it was very tough to spend these three years. I spent the time in training and maintaining my fitness and I was supported by my family which helped me a lot,’’ Thapa said. “Even if I don’t get a chance to play football despite the clean chit, I will be involved with other activities for football development.’’
Thapa added that such charges give a negative message to all the players, fans and the society. “The new generation should not get involved in these kinds of activities and should be able to differentiate what’s wrong and right.’’
Thapa criticized the ANFA for its role in the whole saga during the last three years when the players were in difficulty. “They did not make any effort to support us. They failed to perform their duties toward players who served the nation. They left us all alone,” said an emotional Thapa who was thankful to his family and friends for sticking with him in difficult period.
Meanwhile, the ANFA top officials expressed unawareness about the decision made by the Special Court on Thursday and refused to comment on that. “I have no idea about the decision,” Karma Tshiring Sherpa, the president of ANFA told Republica.