In the first part of this exclusive interview, former Singapore football idol Abbas Saad talks about his match-fixing conviction and his meeting with fugitive ex-teammate, Michal Vana.
It was an apology that took nearly 17 years in coming.
Former footballer Abbas Saad finally got the sorry he was waiting for from ex-teammate Michal Vana when they met in the middle of last year in a Prague hotel.
The pair were embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 1995 when they were both playing for Singapore in the Malaysian League and Malaysia Cup tournaments. In court, Abbas said he had been approached by Vana to fix matches.
While Abbas stayed behind to face the music, Vana jumped bail and absconded to the Czech Republic, where he has remained a fugitive since.
In a subsequent trial that captured the imagination of the local football community, the Lebanon-born Australian and former pin-up boy of Singapore football was found guilty of conspiring with Vana to score goals for Singapore.
He was fined $50,000 by the Subordinate Courts in June 1995.
Although he was considered by the Court to have played only a minimal role in the criminal scheme and had pulled out of the agreement after three games, he was slapped with a life ban for all football activities by the Football Association of Singapore. That was only lifted in 2009 after he appealed.
At the time, he was also given a worldwide FIFA ban that ended in 1996.
Despite the conviction, Abbas, now 43, has always maintained his innocence in the saga. In previous interviews, he called his conviction "puzzling" because he had been punished for "scoring goals and helping my team win."
Still, he admitted that his mind was in a whirl when Vana fled Singapore and there were still questions in his mind that needed clarification from the Czech.
"I've got nothing against him [Vana], but unfortunately, he put me in a little bit of a bother [when he fled Singapore]," Abbas said in an interview with Yahoo! Singapore recently.
Thus, the much-awaited meeting -- arranged by Touchwood Productions, an Australian-based production house behind the upcoming film documentary "Turning Point In The Game -- The Abbas Saad Story" -- was a chance for Abbas "to make sure he didn't do anything bad to me then".
Without giving anything away, Abbas added the meeting was also a chance for him to ask Vana "one or two questions and to double-check what I knew of him was right".
It was also an opportunity for him to, as he puts it, "put the story to bed".
Asked if Vana apologised during the encounter, Abbas nodded and said: "He left me in a really bad position. He was the main witness for my case but he left."
But lest anyone thinks Abbas harbours ill-feelings towards Vana, he put that to rest immediately: "It was nice to see Vana. He's gone through a lot in his private life."
"Whatever happened has happened. We can't change anything that took place in the past," he stressed. With a smile, he let on: "The meeting ended with a handshake and goodbye."
Abbas added that the meeting last year remains the only time he spoke to the former Singapore striker and he has not kept in contact with him since.
The upcoming documentary is scheduled for release in Singapore in July or August this year and the former playmaker was evidently excited as he talked about it.
"It is very important to let people know you. This documentary will let people know what I believe in, my upbringing, and other interesting things about me," he said.
It will also include interviews with Abbas' friends and ex-teammates such as Fandi Ahmad, David Lee and Malek Awab.
Asked if he has seen the completed documentary, Abbas laughed and said: "No I haven't. I have no idea."
Watch the official trailer of the documentary:
In Part 2 of our interview with Abbas, he speaks about life in Malaysia, the LionsXII and on Singapore football.