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January 2016

Game.Set.Match.Fix

The Australian open also known as the ‘Happy slam’  was rocked by  allegations of a widespread match fixing racket.  With BBC and Buzzfeed News publishing a report exposing evidence of widespread speculation of match fixing the atmosphere at the Australian has been anything but cheerful.

An average fan may not be aware that Tennis is the most gambled on sport in the world. It allows mid-match bets and the scope for match fixing is immense. Fixing a match in tennis easy, as it deals only with a single player and doesn’t necessarily mean losing a match, but could mean taking money to drop a set or double fault.

Although none of the players were named, the report alleges that all of them have been ranked in the Top 50 and have won a grand slam in single or doubles tournament. What is disturbing, is that the report also states that the sport’s governing bodies have been aware of the suspicious activities involving numerous players, and have been anything but enthusiastic in addressing the problem. These  players have been flagged as suspicious time and again to the Tennis Integrity Unit, but no action has been taken.

The report draws from the August 2007 Poland open match between Nikolai Davydenko, ranked four and Martin Vassallo Arguello ranked 87th.   Davydenko was the overwhelming favorite, yet during the match and hours before it started more than $5 million was bet on his opponent. Seemingly cruising to victory, Davydenko retired early in the third set, raising speculations of fixing. Investigations did take place and although both the players were cleared of any charges by the Association of Tennis Professionals (A.T.P), the new report reveals that Davydenko had refused to cooperate in the investigation and his opponent was found to have extensive contacts with the members of an Italian gambling syndicate.

Lack of transparency in the governing bodies is another obstacle the game is facing. The above is not the only instance of the governing body remaining silent.  In 2013 Marian Cilic withdrew from Wimbledon stating a knee injury when the actual reason was a failed drug test in the previous tournament. Why was he allowed to cite an injury for a withdrawal when a failed drug test was the real reason? Andre Agassi failed a drug test due to the consumption of crystal meth in 1997, the public got to know about it in 2009, that too by reading his autobiography. If the governing bodies themselves indulge in such shady activities, who gives us the guarantee that our beloved sport is clean or at least attempts are being made to clean the muck.

Those close to the sport are not surprised, rumors of fixing have been doing the rounds for quite some time now. In an interview with the BBC, a player, who featured in several tour matches last year and is now a coach said “This (Match fixing) is like a secret on the tour that everybody knows, but we don’t talk about it.”

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic are the only grand slam winners in the past decade. If any of these players are involved in match-fixing, it would  be a calamitous blow to tennis. But the very fact that some of them have come forward and demanded names gives us solace that they might not be involved.

Andy Roddick tweeted: “In the age of leaks and social media, I don’t think secrets exist.” We certainly hope this secret is revealed, for no one wants tennis going down the controversial path football, cycling and cricket went. 

 

This post was published by YouthKiAwaaz.com

This ‘Secret’ In Tennis Is Something That ‘Everybody Knows But No One Talks About’

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Messi-ah wins historic fifth

This year’s edition of the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala saw Lionel Messi win the award for a record fifth time. Messi beat rivals Neymar Jr. and Cristiano Ronaldo, who walked away with the accolade the previous two years. The Argentine captain received 41.33% of all votes ahead of Portuguese captain Ronaldo who got 27.76% and Brazilian captain Neymar who earned 7.86% of the total votes. Messi won the award in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 “It is a very special moment to win another Ballon d’Or after watching Cristiano win.  It’s incredible this is my fifth, more than I dreamed of as a kid.” said a very jubilant Messi. His son and fiancé were also present at the gala to celebrate the happy occasion.

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Fondly called as The Flea by his fans, Messi’s story is nothing short of a fairy-tale.  From playing on the streets of Rosario to playing under shimmering lights of the Camp Nou, Europe’s largest stadium, Messi’s journey has been exceptional, to say the very least. A boy from a middle class family, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at the age of 11, stunting his physical development. He had to take hormone injections every day for three consecutive years. To add to his misery, Leo’s father lost his job leaving the family in a scramble for money. Messi had nothing and people who have nothing understand the value of things.“When he didn’t have a ball, he used to play with a bottle.” It’s said ‘fortune favours the brave’ and that is exactly what this tiny, skinny, fragile kid was- brave. Packing his dreams and ambitions in a suitcase Messi moved halfway across the globe to La Masia, Futbol Club, Barcelona’s youth academy to do what he loved the most, and the rest as the cliché goes, is history.

Making his debut in 2004, Messi established himself among the world’s best players before the age of 20 and was imperative in helping FC Barcelona achieve dominance in Europe by winning the historic sextuple. Being an avid Barca fan I still remember the day this skinny little boy debut a team dominated by the likes of Ronaldinho, Deco and Samuel Eto. What this boy could do with the ball was enough for us to see that he was clearly meant for great things in life and was fortunate enough to be embraced by the senior players in the team. Ronaldinho was quick to take him under his wing famously commenting that “Messi would be better than me” at the point everyone thought the Brazilian was just being modest and encouraging. But the Brazilian knew better. Messi quickly made a space for himself in the star studded team.

What Messi does with ball is mesmerizing, his finishing skills are deadly and his controls are flawless. Barcelona coach Luis Enrique describes him as “a player from another dimension”, with numbers, stats and records supplementing it. A nightmare for defenders, Messi defies all odds. He seems to know what defenders will do even before they do, easily evading even three to four opponents surrounding him, trashing the concept of’ ‘numerical advantage‘. Perhaps he possesses supernatural powers. His genius transcends tactics, rigidity and norm.

Leo has come a long way, I remember his first Ballon d’Or  Gala in 2007. He looked like an out of place kid who had been forced to wear a tux and sit quietly when he’d rather be on the field with a ball by his feet. 9 years later he won the award for the historic fifth time and in the audience was his son, cheering daddy. Witnessing that I think to myself  ýes it has been that long, from a kid to having a kid Messi has come a long way professionally and personally and so have we.

Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former manager once commented “Don’t write about him. Don’t try to describe him. Watch him.” and perhaps that’s the wisest advice anyone has given, for words cannot do justice to this magician.

#12YearsOfMessiMagic hoping for at least 12 more

Lodha panel set to revolutionize, but will BCCI comply?

In a country where cricket is a religion it is sad to see that corruption has seeped to its core  making it impure and satanic. The 2013 IPL spot fixing being the biggest crisis to hit the cricket governing body in India-  Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). The racquet involved players, officials, and team owners.  This is not the first time BCCI was involved in a scandal, with corruption penetrating so deep that many now rightfully refer to it as the Board of Cricket Corruption in India.

Efforts  made to ameliorate this body in the past have failed. In fresh attempts  to clean the muck spread by BCCI the Supreme Court of India set up a three-member panel, headed by Justice (Retd) R M Lodha in 2015 to improve cricket administration. The committee has foremost demanded transparency in the functioning of the BCCI.  A plea to bring BCCI under the  Right to Information (RTI) Act has been made. New criteria to be elected as an officer-bearer with the BCCI has also been proposed. Ministers and government official have been barred from holding a position in the body, an age limit of 70 years has been set along with a fixed tenure. Other recommendations include legalising betting and having two different bodies governing the IPL and BCCI along with appointment of three special officers – Ethics and Electoral officers and an ombudsman.

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The recommendations have hit the BCCI and State Cricket Associations like a sledgehammer. The panel has made it clear that in order to make the institution work individual interests will have to be given up. The recommendations look revolutionary on paper, set to eradicate all corrupt elements from the administration of this sacred sport. But it is important to note that these are  just suggestions that are not legally binding the BCCI to implement them.

The attempt to bring the BCCI under RTI is not new one, in 2011 sports minister Ajay Maken’s attempt to bring the BCCI under RTI with National Sports Development Bill went futile as several Cabinet minister in the then government had deep roots in the BCCI themselves .With an obscure amount of money flowing in this private body the  BCCI is like that hen laying golden eggs for anyone who gets involved with this institution. So we are back to square one as it is up to BCCI’s conscience to clean up their act. 

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