NKARENG MATSHE | Chaine 'joke' shows need for players to know betting dangers

Fifa rules explicit that gambling is taboo

Nkareng Matshe Sports editor
A video of Pirates keeper Sipho Chaine speaking about gambling this week is an indication our footballers require education about perceptions of match-fixing.
A video of Pirates keeper Sipho Chaine speaking about gambling this week is an indication our footballers require education about perceptions of match-fixing.
Image: Lefty Shivambu

The emergence this week of a video showing Orlando Pirates’ Sipho Chaine speaking about gambling on a live match is another indication that our footballers require adequate education about perceptions of match-fixing and even a lecture on the rules of the game.

To start with, Chaine is a goalkeeper, and no player is prone to mistakes like someone in his position. A howler could inevitably lead to suspicions he may have placed a bet on the match.

Perhaps we should accept Pirates’ explanation that the video was taken in jest, with people seen in the video, which included at least three club staff members, apparently unfamiliar with the laws governing betting by footballers.

Fifa’s code of ethics is explicit: footballers “are forbidden from participating in, either directly or indirectly, betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions related to football matches or competitions and/or any related football activities”.

The reason for banning players from gambling is pure commonsense: There are bound to be mistakes in professional sport, and the last thing we want is to question the legitimacy of performance. Was that a misplaced pass or a player letting another score because they bet R5,000 on their own team losing, we would wonder.

In other sports, Chaine’s behaviour would have elicited an immediate suspension, not just a sympathetic statement from his club downplaying his gross violation of Fifa statutes. The Hansie Cronje scandal caused such a major shake-up to the cricket world that players can now be banned for failing to report an approach from a bookmaker.

Gambling, apart from benefiting mostly betting companies, wreaks havoc in families as it breeds reckless addicts who, contrary to the popular dictum, do not know when to stop. They go to great lengths to satisfy their addiction, chasing money they will never get, and as role models, footballers like Chaine cannot feed this shameless monster.

Pirates realised the seriousness of the breach which occurred from within their dressing room and issued a statement promptly and, while watered down, I hope the promise to institute an internal hearing into the saga is fulfilled. That would mean summoning evidence to prove that Chaine, or any player, is not involved in any betting.

The way Chaine, his colleagues and supposed teammates were laughing in that video tells me we could well be sitting on a time bomb of PSL players unknowingly breaching Fifa ethics by engaging in sports betting. With the state of officiating deteriorating by the week, could we also have cause to believe that refs are also placing bets? The Fifa ethics code forbids them from doing so too.

It would be harsh for an example to be made of Chaine, if indeed the video was “captured in a lighthearted moment with teammates”, but a strong message has to be sent out that professional players are not allowed to even think about betting.

I would have thought our players are familiar with the story of Ivan Toney, of Brentford and England, who missed the 2022 World Cup after being charged with 232 breaches of the English Football Association’s betting rules. He was slapped with an eight-month ban and was diagnosed with a gambling addiction.

We have no clue if any PSL players have this kind of problem, but maybe the Chaine saga could shed some light. Pirates must not only heed their promise of an internal probe, but also should make findings — adverse or otherwise — public. Even better, a hearing chaired by a neutral party not associated with the club would be more beneficial to SA football to once and for all establish how prevalent betting is among our players.

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