'We have been made scapegoats'

Published On: July 4, 2016 02:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, July 4: Former national football team captain Sagar Thapa, banned for life on charge of fixing Nepal's international matches by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), says he and four other footballers charged for the same offence are waiting for grounds for the decision from the AFC before filing their appeal against the punishment.

The AFC had banned five former Nepali internationals including then captain Sagar, Sandeep Rai and Ritesh Thapa and two former national squad members Anjan KC and Bikash Singh Chhetri on December 4 last year.

“We were not involved in any kind of match fixing and we have been waiting for the grounds for the decision from the AFC almost since the last six months,” said a devastated Sagar, who lost his fame and stardom overnight after Nepal Police arrested the five footballers charging them of influencing Nepal's outcome during international matches under financial inducement of bookies.    

At the same time, the trail against treason case filed by Nepal Police is ongoing at the Special Court in Babarmahal and Sagar says he is confident of winning the case since he was not involved in any wrongdoing.

“I think we will get justice from both the Special Court and the AFC. I think the AFC will give us the grounds for the decision once Special Court gives the final verdict and the next hearing has been fixed for August 2,” said Sagar.  

He also pointed out that they became the victims of power struggle and politics between banned All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa and his rivals. “We have been made scapegoats in the struggle between Ganesh Thapa and his rivals,” said Sagar, who declined to name them.

“Our life turned into hell for no reason and it has been too difficult even to earn bread and butter for survival now. The only thing I knew and thought of was football. I had no concern with outside world than football. But now I have learned a big lesson in life.”

“Who will take the responsibility of ruining our life after we get clearance of match fixing allegations?” questioned Sagar, adding,  “I was harassed on a few occasions at public places for the same charge and some people still sympathize on us believing that we were made scapegoats. Even a close friend of mine once said that he feels humiliated because of me.”     

He also shared that he turned down offers to play professional football abroad. “I turned down offers to play professional football from nearly a dozen countries because I did not want to leave my country. Besides, I was also earning sufficient amount to live a respectable life in my homeland itself. Advertisements for business houses and being named brand ambassadors used to be the other sources of income.”

Almost 10 months have passed since their arrest by Nepal Police and Sagar spends most of his time at home without any job. “I have no plans to start a specific business or job right now. But I play futsal twice or thrice a week. I think I must start something in the near future but I don't have any idea about business or something else. Besides, starting business also needs investment which I don't have,” he laments.

“My presence in various functions used to please bigwigs before the match fixing allegations and I wish that they help me while I am in this condition,” Sagar said.

He also said that he meets the other four players facing same offence only for discussion regarding their court case.

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