Sex for fixing game: 3 Lebanese refs charged

THREE Lebanese match officials who were in Singapore to officiate the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup were charged last night with accepting sexual favours in return for fixing a game.

Referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb face one count of corruption each. They are said to have accepted bribes from a dealer in the form of free sexual services from three different women at Amara Hotel in Tanjong Pagar Road on Wednesday - the day of the match between S-League champions Tampines Rovers and East Bengal at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Tampines were beaten 4-2 by East Bengal, the runners-up in the Indian league.

The Football Association of Singapore alerted the AFC once it was informed that the Lebanese were not available to carry out their duties. Replacement match officials from Malaysia and Thailand were dispatched immediately to Singapore.

In court last night, the charge was read to each of the trio in Arabic by an interpreter. Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu wanted pleas to be taken from them. But District Judge Kessler Soh declined and adjourned the case until this morning.

The trio said through the interpreter that they were family men and sought help from the court.

Speaking in English, Sabbagh asked for forgiveness, while Eid also apologised. Taleb spoke in Arabic, saying that he did not have sex with the girl and had asked only for a massage.

Sabbagh, a 33-year-old teacher, has been a Fifa-accredited referee since 2008. Eid, also 33, received his Fifa badge in the same year. Taleb, 37, does not have a Fifa badge.

If convicted, each faces a fine of up to $100,000, up to five years in jail or both.