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South African Football Association suspends officials

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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612   //    18 Dec 2012, 09:22 IST

Former SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani.

The South African Football Association president, Kirsten Nematandani, and four other officials were suspended by the South African Football Association after “compelling evidence” came to the fore that one or more games were fixed by betting syndicates from FIFA’s report in their investigation into match-fixing ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

The football body has asked president Kirsten Nematandani to “take a voluntary leave of absence from his position” and apologized to FIFA for such behaviour and are on their way to launch their own internal investigation into the grave matter.

Dennis Mumble, Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane – the other four members who were indicted for the offense have also been asked to take voluntary leave while Mwelo Nonkonyana, the the association’s vice-president, has taken over as interim president.

Nonkonyana said in the statement:

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

The association had earlier stated on Saturday that it had received the reports from FIFA on Friday. Then the Governing body admitted then that it had been “infiltrated” two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal,whose fake soccer company Football4U was simply a front for betting syndicates in Asia.

No player has been implicated in the fixing saga.

SAFA are yet to identify the games, but South Africa’s 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in late May 2010 — two weeks before the World Cup kicked off — were under suspicion. FIFA-approved referees appointed by Perumal’s Football4U were thought to have manipulated one or more of South Africa’s World Cup build-up games for betting markets. The roles of South African officials, if any, in aiding Perumal are being looked into, SAFA said.

Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou had awarded three penalties for handball in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31, with a couple of them appearing to be dubious decisions. FIFA has sought Chaibou for questioning for his handling of other suspicious games in Africa, Asia and South America, where penalties awarded were of a significantly large number, apparently to feed betting scams.

The official opening game of South Africa’s redeveloped Soccer City showpiece stadium between South Africa and Colombia on May 27, which was  refereed by a Kenyan official resulted in three penalty kicks to the home side. Bafana Bafana also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1 in preparation games ahead of the World Cup.

FIFA started looking at the matches in March this year after SAFA had asked the world’s governing body to take over the investigation over allegations of fixing in the World Cup build-up.

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