During my football career, I heard rumours about matches being fixed. Let’s say I heard them more than once. But they were rumours or just conversations between players.
For me, it was not a secret that match-fixing exists in Uzbekistan. But I never thought about it, and I never thought about any consequences. My attitude changed in 2021.
Before a match against Dynamo with my team, PFC Yangier, I noticed several of my team-mates were behaving strangely. They would lock themselves in the room, separate themselves from the team, or only walk together.
When I approached them, they immediately interrupted their conversation and acted differently than they would usually do. I did not think too much about it, I just thought it had to do with pre-match nerves.
We lost that match 2-1. After the game, the club president entered our dressing room and in front of everyone accused me and five other players of the fact that we sold the match.
When I arrived home, I was informed that I had been expelled and that a case had been filed against me for being involved with match-fixing. That was the first time I seriously thought about what could happen next, because I wasn’t a young player anymore.
I contacted the unions. They informed me about the risks and possible sanctions if I were to be found guilty of illegal match manipulation. I could forever lose my right to play football. I could lose my reputation as an honest player for which I had worked all my career.
During the investigation, I was suspended from playing football. I had to wait for eight months, and those were eight long months. I was sitting at home without being able to do the thing I loved most.
My friends and colleagues turned away from me. During that period, I realised that one wrong decision can end a player’s career, regardless of their status and merits.
I experienced how my colleagues’ attitude towards me changed. And when I asked clubs if I could train with them to keep fit, they all turned me down. I didn’t know what to do.
Every day, I thought about it. It was not my fault. I didn’t fix any match, but except for UFU, no-one believed me.
After eight months, the special committee that investigated the case came to the conclusion that the match was fixed and that three players and a goalkeeper coach were guilty of organising it. I was cleared of all charges, as was another player, Nodir Ashurmatov.
But unfortunately, due to my age, I had to retire from playing football. The only good thing was that my reputation as an honest and professional player was restored.
During the investigation, I often met with the union and they told me about the Red Button application, which enables players to anonymously report any suspicions or approaches of match-fixing. It could prevent match-fixing and protect players.
I realised that if at that moment, when I suspected something was wrong, then I would have had the opportunity to use the Red Button app and I would have protected myself. Perhaps, without being suspended for eight months, my career would not have been finished.
Hopefully, the Red Button app helps eradicate match-fixing. After all, people trying to fix matches should now understand that players have the opportunity to report any approach to manipulate a match.
I call on all players to download the Red Button app. Your life and football career are in your hands. Let's fight against match-fixing together.
Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the player union for believing me and for their help with clearing my name.
With their support, Nodir and I filed a claim against the club for termination of the contract without just cause. The football association’s player status committee awarded us with a compensation equalling the entire remaining value of our contract, and an extra moral damage compensation.