Did leading Singapore striker get the bullet?
By CHARLIE CHARTERS
DID top Singapore striker Sundra Moorthy receive a threatening note and a bullet in the post on the eve of last month's Malaysia Cup final? A leading Malaysian newspaper said he received a note saying: ''Do not help Singapore to win the Malaysia Cup or your family will be harmed''.
And the newspaper quoted Asian Football Confederation secretary general Peter Velappan as the source of its information.
Velappan immediately denied the report, but said somewhat guardedly: ''Even if I did know something of this nature, I'm not going to run to the newspapers with it.'' The player himself - this is not the first time he has has had to deal with allegations of match-fixing - was also angered by the report. ''It is totally false. No one approached me and no letter was received,'' said Moorthy.
The story in the daily tabloid The Star came just a week after league champions Kedah defeated Singapore 2-0 in the final.
Singapore fans were far from impressed with their team's showing and felt some of their key players had been ''nobbled'' by bookmakers.
Malaysian and Singaporean fans have long been frustrated by seeing their teams play second fiddle to big-business bookmakers fixing matches, allegedly right up to national team level.
Hopefully Malaysia and Singapore's launch of a fully professional league next season may tip the balance in favour of players earning enough on the field not to be tempted by off-the-field offers.
THIS month's issue of World Soccer carries a glowing end-of-term report on the first year of the Japanese J.League professional competition.
The feature, headlined ''Strength through Misery - World Cup defeat fortifies the game'', notes the future of football in the country looks secure, despite Japan's agonising exit on the last day of regional World Cup qualifiers.
But the report probably jumped the gun. If this week's bout of heated finger-pointing between the J.League executive, the FA of Japan and top side Yomiuri Verdy is anything to go by, Japanese soccer may have become too popular for the governing body to control.
The dispute centres on Verdy's plans to move to a newly-built 35,000-seater stadium in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu. This means moving away from Kawasaki, the city whose small and grubby stadium has been home for the team that have won the second stage of the J.League.
The J.League set out to have their teams rooted in communities - Verdy's full name is Yomiuri Verdy Kawasaki, for instance. This was an inspired move - after all, it's hard to be enthusiastic chanting for teams with corporate names such as Voicelink (Hong Kong), Daewoo Royals (South Korea) or Bangkok Bank (Thailand).
J.League boss Saburo Kawabuchi is far from impressed with Verdy's bid to move. He said: ''That's not good enough - the club is indebted to Kawasaki and they should show the city every courtesy.''