Sport

Fixing saga rocks SAFA: President and others suspended

By Ant Sims 18 December 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but the South African Football Association’s house of cards has started to tumble down after FIFA presented them with a 500-page report which has “compelling evidence” that a number of Bafana Bafana friendlies heading up to the 2010 World Cup were fixed. By ANT SIMS.

South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani and four other officials have been put on special leave in the light of a match-fixing scandal which has rocked the sport’s governing body. 

Mwelo Nonkonyana has been appointed acting president while admin officials Dennis Mumble, Ace Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane have all been suspended.

Former SAFA CEO, Lesley Sedibe, has also been named in the scandal, and Pinky Lehoko has been appointed interim CEO to replace outgoing CEO Dr Robin Petersen.

SAFA will appoint a commission of inquiry under the leadership of a retired judge to investigate the match-fixing scandal further, after it received a damning report from FIFA which contained “compelling evidence” that some of Bafana Bafana’s friendlies prior to the 2010 World Cup were fixed. SAFA has said that all matches leading up to the 2010 World Cup will be investigated.

Safa was handed the 500-page report from FIFA on Friday and scheduled an emergency meeting on Sunday to decide the way forward. A press conference was held on Monday morning, and SAFA said that although several members had been put on “special leave”, it in no way implied that these individuals were involved in match fixing. SAFA said that it was simply “for good governance” that this measure was being implemented.

“This is a difficult situation for the association, and for those who have been named in the report,” Nonkonyana said.

“We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise. We need to allow the investigation to take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be separated from those who are not.”

Various officials apparently interacted with the bogus football development company Football 4U, a front for Asian-based betting syndicate member Wilson Raj Perumal, who has since been arrested. The report from Fifa recommended that “further examination” of these officials should take place to see whether or not the interactions transgressed FIFA and/or SAFA disciplinary codes, and whether any of these officials did so with “criminal intent in collusion with Football 4U”.

“Perumal and Football 4U managed to infiltrate SAFA prior to the World Cup, with an offer to assist with referee development. The offer included providing FIFA-accredited referees at their cost for the friendly matches prior to the FIFA 2010 World Cup,” SAFA said.

The saga is centred around the officials appointed for the friendlies. Usually, SAFA would arrange to bring in its own referees from neighbouring countries, but it accepted an offer from Perumal’s scam agency to help with the appointment of officials for the friendlies prior to the World Cup. Perumal was dealing with SAFA while he was on the run from police in Singapore, where he had skipped bail.

He has since his arrest been linked with a Malaysian match-fixing syndicate and was also implicated with the Zimbabwean national team, which saw 15 players banned for life after being accused of taking money for throwing matches between 2007 and 2009.

Matches under suspicion were Bafana’s 4-0 win over Thailand, as well as a 2-1 win over Colombia and a 5-0 thumping of Guatemala. The matches involved three penalties for handball, awarded by Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31. Two of the decisions were clearly incorrect. Chaibou has previously been sought for question by FIFA for suspicious officiating in games in Africa, Asia and South America – all games which involved a high number of penalties to allegedly feed betting scams. 

Safa had become suspicious of Chaibou and he was replaced as referee for South Africa’s final warm-up game in a 1-0 win over Denmark on June 5, 2010.

“The FIFA report addresses the question of whether one or more of the pre-World Cup friendly matches was fixed, and finds compelling evidence that this was indeed the case,” SAFA said.

With the African Cup of Nations just around the corner, the LOC has already put plans in place to ensure that nothing untoward happens during the tournament.

Referees who are part of the tournament will be under strict scrutiny. Officials who are taking part in the tournament will be “quarantined” or scheduled in their hotels during the tournament, and will be confined to their hotel with nobody having access. Referees will be escorted by security in order stop them from having any sort of contact with members of the public and media while they are being transported to stadiums. DM

Photo: Safa’s suspended CEO Kirsten Nematandani. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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