‘Friendly’ matches are a bane

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The spectre of ‘friendly matches’ has reared its head again in the St. Joseph’s-CFA senior division league. With the league on the home bend, some desperate teams are adopting methods that are against the spirit of the game to avoid relegation.

Gifting points to help a relegation-threatened team towards the end of the league isn’t uncommon in the senior division. The farcical match between AGORC and Nethaji on the final day of the 2008-09 season came as a hammer blow to the credibility of the league. Some teams even take pride in losing deliberately because they think their act is noble.

The manner in which SAI lost to FCI on Monday has raised question marks. Many people who watched the tie aren’t convinced that SAI played to their potential. “Having already avoided relegation, SAI appeared to take it easy against FCI. Fans don’t pay any money to watch the league, but that doesn’t mean that they can be fooled,” a fan said.

According to him, throwing away a match is akin to cheating. “The league is not run for charity. There is no need for one team to save another. Saving one team automatically means sinking another. If a team is not ready to play for a win, why should it play in the first place?” he added furiously.

SAI’s performances have been a revelation this season. They not only held early pace setters AGORC (2-2), they also went on to beat title contenders Tamil Nadu Police (2-1) with a vibrant show. Against FCI, they were strangely pedestrian. The usual fighting spirit of SAI was missing.

Players from both sides went through the motions in the match that stood out for lack of passion. When the winning side wasn’t jubilant and the losing side not despondent, fans get suspicious.
But SAI coach I.K. Unni rubbished allegations that his team had thrown away the match. “We always play to win. We failed as a team against FCI.

Our playmaker Mijo Jose and striker Venkatesan couldn’t perform well because of tight marking. Playing two matches in four days also took a toll on my players,” he said, adding that SAI would never fix matches under any circumstances.

The practice of presenting points is a grave sin in any sport because nobody wants to watch an artificial contest.

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