Thailand had earlier beaten Cuba 3-1 in their final match of the Olympic Women’s Qualification Tournament, leaving their London berth hanging on the result of the Japan-Serbia match. To the dismay and shock of the Thais, favourites Japan lost to Serbia in five sets. Thai officials and fans then claimed that the Japanese had thrown the match to allow both to qualify.
The tournament decided the final four of the 12 women’s teams at the Olympics, with the top-three finishers plus best Asian side among the rest bagging berths.
But proceedings were marred by the match-fixing claim, which became the talk of the town. Social media turned into a battlefield with fans expressing their outrage over the result, prompting the Thailand Volleyball Association to lodge a complaint with the FIVB.
Wei Jizhong, president of the FIVB, set up a working group to investigate the match. On Monday night, the verdict was delivered.
“The conclusion of the FIVB control committee in place is that there is no evidence to prove the existence of match fixing. The reports received from the national federations of Japan and Serbia told us the same. Some witnesses in attendance at the match gave the same judgement,” the FIVB statement said.
“A combination of circumstances, competition system and the final situation before this last match may open up the suggestion of match fixing. The FIVB has already decided to revise the competition system of its future Olympic qualification tournaments in order to reduce even further the possibility of any manipulation.
“The FIVB stands firmly against doping, match fixing and illegal betting in sport as required by the IOC.”
Predictably, Thai social media sites were bombarded with messages expressing dissatisfaction over the judgement.
The Thailand volleyball fan club sent a letter to the Embassy of Japan in Bangkok stating that they accepted and respected the FIVB’s decision but would like to tell the world that the Thailand team failed to qualify for the London Games because of injustice, lack of transparency and the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Japanese team.
Had Japan beaten Serbia, both Japan and Thailand would have qualified for the London Games. But Japan would have been placed in a tough Olympic group alongside defending champions Brazil, world No 1 USA, Asian champions China and European powerhouse Turkey.
“The allegation is unfounded. As a matter of course, Japan wanted to win this match. The defeat has not given Japan any advantage in the Olympics,” insisted a Japanese volleyball official.
Japan and Thailand finished level on 12 points with four wins and three losses each. But Japan had a better sets ratio and finished fourth in the table with Thailand fifth.
Russia (7-0), South Korea (5-2), Serbia (5-2) and Japan (4-3) made the cut.
In London, they will join hosts Britain, the top three teams at the 2011 World Cup (Italy, USA and China) and the winners of the other continental qualifiers – Algeria, Dominican Republic, Turkey and Brazil.