EXCLUSIVE: Former Socceroo Abbas Saad says he’s relieved that his 14-year ban imposed by the Singapore football association has been lifted – and he maintains his innocence of alleged match fixing charges.
Saad, now 41, was a star striker for Singapore in the early 1990s in two stints, first in 1990 then again in 1993-94.
Playing for the Lions, he won the Premier League and Malaysian Cup double in 1994. He scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 defeat of Pahang in the Malaysia Cup final at the Shah Alam Stadium.
However, in1995, he was found guilty of helping then team-mate Michael Vana in a conspiracy to fix results in the FAM Premier League competition.
Saad was implicated when he agreed to help Vana to win games for Singapore by scoring goals.
He did not receive any money and pulled out of the arrangement after three matches.
He was given a global ban but FIFA lifted the sanction in 1996 and the striker continued playing football in Australia turning out for among other clubs Northern Spirit.
Former Socceroo boss Terry Venables capped the skilful striker three times in 1998 during a series of home-based internationals.
Saad insists he has done nothing wrong as he did not gain financially and any arrangement was on the basis of him scoring goals, not the other way around, he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
"There was no money received by me at all," he said. "Someone approached me once and said 'you score goals?' and I said 'of course I score goals, I'm a striker'.
"And so that conversation was taken out of context. There was no money received or nothing like that. I don't know how they built a case, I think it was a technical thing. I'm not a lawyer. So let's let bygones be bygones.
"Obviously I'm over the moon and I want to thank the FA of Singapore for at least giving me that second chance."
He added: "Hopefully, I can now continue my life in a new era. I don't want this to be the main focus in my career because it's taken away the gloss and all the good things that I've achieved, especially in Singapore.
"And having been the first Australian to play in Asia, I can be a resource for everyone else at the moment. Hopefully that will come."
Saad has now carved out a promising career in coaching here in Australia over the last few years. He coaches Trinity Grammar, Sydney Olympic youth team as well as the national deaf team.
However, Saad has strong links with Singaporean football. The ban being lifted has been big news back in Singapore and Saad even named his son Malek in honour of the great Singapore player Malek Awab.
There is already talk that he could return to Singapore where he remains a popular figure among fans.