Lebanon rocked by match-fixing scandal
This story has been corrected. Read below
An investigation carried out by the West Asian Football Federation has found 24 players and two club officials in Lebanon to have been involved in fixing both continental and international matches, according to a report in the The Daily Star Lebanon.
The Lebanese Football Federation has since acted by handing out lifetime bans and $15,000 fines to two players - Ramez Dayoub and Mahmoud El-Ali - as part of the probe into corruption which centres on at least one World Cup qualifier and AFC Cup games. However, the exact fixtures which were ruled to have been unduly influenced were not disclosed.
Two more players - Mohammad Jaafar and Al Ahed's Hadi Sahmaran - were fined $7,000 and banned for three seasons for their part in the scandal, while other players involved were handed smaller fines.
The players, of whom 11 have been capped at international level in all, are believed to have received payments to try and affect results of matches in which they were playing.
The Asian Football Confederation has announced that it has opened its own investigation into the claims, while FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein praised the LFF for its action.
"I am concerned by the findings, which are very serious. This case is testimony to the importance of working hand in hand to combat this global problem," Prince Ali told Reuters.
"I also commend the Lebanon Football Association for their leadership in this regard and their full cooperation with the two-month investigation."
WAFF general secretary Fadi Zreiqat questioned 65 witnesses as part of his investigation, which comes at a time when attention is focused on match-fixing more than usual following Europol's claims that it is suspected hundreds matches across the globe of being compromised by officials and players.
Dayoub, who plays his club football for Malaysian club Selangor, strongly denied the charge and said he said it was up to world governing body FIFA to decide if he should be banned.
"I am not guilty. They have suspended me and accused me of match-fixing without any evidence or proof," he told FOX Sports. "This is a serious allegation and I have no doubt there's something behind this.
"If I really am guilty of match-fixing, FIFA will investigate and suspend me, not the Lebanese FA."
Lebanon are preparing for some key fixtures in March, when they are due to face Thailand and Uzbekistan in their respective bids for Asian Cup and World Cup qualification.
A Feb. 27 story on ESPNFC.com about possible match fixing by players and club officials in Lebanon failed to prominently provide proper attribution. The story should have been attributed to The Daily Star Lebanon.