In different corners of Asia, it's been a week of milestones in the murky world of football match-fixing. In Male, the capital of the Maldives, champions Valencia submitted an official report to the country's football association after an AFC Cup game in April saw two players sacked in the wake of a suspicious 5-1 defeat. One of them, a national goalkeeper, was accused of pocketing US$3,000 to help his team lose by four goals. In Singapore, ex-Australia international Abbas Saad made an emotional return to the field after his 14-year ban for match-fixing was finally lifted. The Chinese Super League is still recovering from a series of betting scandals since its inception in 2004. In March, Uefa president Michel Platini described match-fixing as football's single biggest problem, adding that 27,000 European games were being monitored. And, according to some observers, it is likely to become more common in Asia as tough economic times take hold. 'With the recession, a number of Asian clubs are behind by up to three or four months in salary payments [and that] provides the bookies with the ammunition to lure the players in,' said Malaysia-based former Australia international Scott Ollerenshaw, who runs a futsal centre. 'They have mortgages and bills to pay like anyone else so when they are offered easy money to fix a match, many of them accept in desperation.' For Valencia vice-captain Hassan 'Timo' Rameez, his reported indiscretions in an AFC Cup game away to Singapore's Home United on April 21 saw him instantly go from hero to zero among the fans who once considered him their country's finest goalkeeper. Two weeks earlier, Timo had helped underdogs Valencia to a 1-0 home defeat against the same Singapore outfit. But in the away leg, he is alleged to have slipped away from the team camp to meet two Singaporeans in a hotel along with teammate Hassan Fairooz, a midfielder. They gave Timo a down-payment of US$3,000 and promised a further US$17,000 if Valencia lost by at least four goals. Home United scored twice within the first seven minutes and by the 36th minute, they led 4-0 before winning 5-1. A YouTube clip shows Timo flapping helplessly against a Home attack, which had produced just four goals in three previous AFC matches. Maldives football authorities became suspicious when they studied a DVD of the game. Timo, whose playing contract was worth around US$1,200 per month, could face a jail term of up to five years if Maldives' football bosses decide to refer the matter to police. It's the second episode involving a Maldives side and Home United in 12 months after two foreign players from Victory SC were approached to throw their AFC Cup match in Singapore in April 2008 before referring the matter to local authorities. Fourteen years ago, Abbas Saad was slapped with a S$50,000 (HK$270,000) fine and given a worldwide ban after being found guilty of working with teammate Michael Vana to fix games in the Malaysian Premier League. Although his suspension was lifted outside Singapore after just few months, Saad feels the scandal prevented him from fulfiling his potential. 'I was very hurt because I was 27 and at the peak of my career. I had contracts in Europe, but I missed out on them,' he said. Saad returned to his native Australia to play in its modest domestic championship. Around the same period, Ollerenshaw was a prolific striker for Sabah. He received death threats and was forced to hire a bodyguard after speaking up against what he saw as blatant match-fixing. 'The final straw was an away game when my strike partner wouldn't come over the halfway line and refused to take a penalty when we were trailing 1-0,' Ollerenshaw said. 'I converted the penalty and we drew 1-1. Then, on our return home, police handcuffed six of our team including that striker and led them away.' Saad's Singapore ban was eased only in March. Now aged 41 with an eye on pursuing a managerial career in a region where his name still carries weight, he's back completing his A-coaching licence. And last Sunday, he pulled on the boots again to join his teammates from the successful 1994 Singapore side in an exhibition match. 'One word to explain it [match-fixing], and that's greed,' Saad said. 'Maybe some players are pushed to do it or they've been misguided, hanging out with the wrong crowd. But at the end of the day, it's an individual decision.' Ollerenshaw called on the Asian Football Confederation to make a severe example of anyone who compromises their performances for money. 'Players need to know that the consequences of being caught will result in jail time,' he said. 'We need zero tolerance to clear up this cancer of the game.'