Filepic shows an AFC Cup match between Ninh Binh (in stripes) and Kelantan in Kota Baru on March 18. The Vietnam side have withdrawn from their domestic league amidst match-fixing investigations on their players.
PETALING JAYA: The latest match-fixing allegation involving Vietnamese side Ninh Binh may hand Kelantan a lifeline in the AFC Cup competition.
According to foreign news reports, 15 Ninh Binh players have been hauled up by the police in relation to match-fixing in the country’s top flight competition, the Vietnam League (V-League), and the AFC Cup.
Despite being last year’s Vietnamese Cup winners, the club are currently languishing third from bottom in the 11-team league. Yet, in the AFC Cup competition, they are undefeated in Group G with 13 points and one more match to be played, and have in fact, already sealed their berth in the knockout stage.
Myanmar’s Yangon United are second in the four-team group with nine points, South China of Hong Kong are third and Kelantan prop up the group with three points after playing five matches.
Owner Vu Manh Truong has suspended all club activities while the players are being investigated. Ninh Binh have also voluntarily withdrawn from the ongoing V-League season.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC) deputy general-secretary Windsor John Paul said that AFC have not received any reports from the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) on the allegations.
Windsor added that the investigation should be completed before any action can be taken against the club in the AFC Cup competition.
“It’s up to the VFF to take action if the allegations are true and we will endorse it and hand extra sanctions on the guilty party if needed.”
Commenting on the allegations, Kelantan FA manager Azman Ibrahim said he’s saddened to hear about possible match-fixing.
If Ninh Binh are found guilty and their result in the AFC Cup competition expunged, then the Red Warriors stand a chance of qualifying to the round of 16.
However, they will first need to win their final Group G match against South China on April 22.
“It’s disturbing to know that matches are being fixed in the AFC Cup and I hope our team are not involved in the allegations,” said Azman.
“We are not sure what will happen in the competition because the investigation will take a long time to conclude. We will focus on winning the last game of the group.”