Corrupt practices in football is not new. To protect its new cash-rich competition, the Indian Super League, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) is banking on the message spread by its integrity unit, one based on three 'R's.
"The integrity unit officer of AIFF has briefed each and every player before their first match in the ISL. He reminded them of the three 'R's - 'Recognise', 'Reject' and 'Report'. You have to be careful about unknown persons who can approach you," an AIFF official told HT on Thursday. "Rejecting any offer or favour is the best way to keep one away from trouble and allegations. And, reporting of such approaches is the only way to clean the game."
Last month, the AIFF established the unit headed by Javed Siraj who retired from the Central Bureau of Investigation in May 2014. Siraj was an expert in investigation and supervision of all types of anti-corruption and economic offence cases.
"This is an independent unit. If any integrity officer investigates or the disciplinary committee bans any player for his involvement in corruption, the ISL cannot take a call on his ban," said a spokesperson with the league.
It's not been easy though. Integrity officers, it was learnt, have been struggling to convey anti-corruption codes to some foreign players because their limited knowledge of English.
Playing NorthEast United in Guwahati on October 16, one of the assistant coaches of Atletico de Kolkata, Angel Diaz, was reported by the integrity unit as he was seen talking over the phone throughout the match. Later, he told the unit that he knew only Spanish and could not understand what he was briefed about. However, he has tendered a written apology to the ISL.
The use of a phone or any other communications device has been banned during the match. Players and officials must deposit their phone or laptops with team management before leaving the team bus.
Citing Fifa rules, the AIFF has also not let owners sit in the technical area unless they are accredited as an 'official' with the team. Wearing an 'official' tag brings the owner under the purview of the match commissioner. At the moment, 19 team members can sit in dugout with maximum of nine officials.
Verdict on bans
Atletico de Kolkata will be hoping that AIFF's special three-member disciplinary committee will consider their appeal and reduce the bans on coach Antonio Lopez Habas and striker Fikru Lemessa when it meets in New Delhi on Friday.
"The three-member body headed by NA Khan will go over all the evidence, including video footage. The only way the bans can be reduced is if the committee finds there is some room for doubt in the involvement of the concerned parties," said an official from New Delhi on Thursday.