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Cape Town - Five top SA Football Association (Safa) officials, including its president Kirsten Nematandani, have been suspended pending a match-fixing inquiry into four pre-2010 World Cup warm-up games involving Bafana Bafana.
The suspensions follow a damning Fifa report into the Bafana friendlies against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks prior to the 2010 World Cup.
Aside from Nematandani, Safa CEO and interim CEO Dennis Mumble, head of referees Adeel Carelse, head of national teams Lindile Kika, and former head of national teams Barney Kujane, would also take a voluntary leave of absence after their names were mentioned in the Fifa report.
The report questioned Safa’s decision to allow full control of logistics for four matches prior to the 2010 Fifa World Cup by Football 4U International, a fake football development company owned by convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal Raj.
Raj, a Singaporean national, was convicted in 2011 to two years in prison after being found guilty of fixing at least nine games in the Finnish domestic league.
He is also accused of fielding a fake Togo national team in a match against Bahrain in 2011 and for running over a police officer in Singapore in 2009.
The match-fixer has also been said to have bribed Zimbabwean players while on tour of Asia in 2009. During the tour the Zimbabwean team lost to Thailand, Malaysia and Syria.
Raj has a long history of arrests to his name with his first arrest coming in 1995 for bribing a team captain and then again in 2000 for physically intimidating a player in the Singapore league.
His involvement with Safa saw him organise the officials for Bafana’s pre-World Cup games against Bulgaria, Colombia, Guatemala and Thailand.
Bafana won every match, except for a one all draw with Bulgaria, yet the results have been found to be have been pre-arranged to benefit an Asian betting syndicate.
Raj’s company, Football 4U International, was later discovered to have been a front for the Asian betting syndicate.
In order to deal with the matter Safa’s emergency committee will set up a commission of inquiry that will be lead by a retired judge.
A statement by Safa issued on Monday read: “The emergency committee felt that the president would have to appear before the commission of inquiry to explain his role in the matter.”
“Having considered the implications of this for Safa, the committee asked the president to take a voluntary leave of absence from his position.”
Mumble, Kika, Carelse and Kujane were all mentioned in the report and will also be required to appear before the inquiry, resulting in them being put on special administrative leave.
“This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in Match fixing. It is again simply for good governance that this measure is being implemented,” said the statement.
Vice president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana will act as interim president and has admitted that the association was struggling to come to terms with the allegations. He promised a swift and fair outcome.
“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,” Nonkonyana said.
Outgoing chief executive Robin Peterson has stated that the suspensions were for the good of the association and that he would remain at Safa, working with new chief executive Pinky Lehoko for a short period.
Former chief executive Lesley Sidibe and former head of referees Steve Goddard will also be asked to give evidence at the inquiry.
Four Bafana warm-up games before World Cup in spotlight
South Africa 4-0 Thailand
Date: May 16, 2010.
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit.
Referee: Dennis Nguluwe (Malawi).
Bafana Bafana equalled their best-ever winning margin in the victory over Thailand, their previous record was a 4-0 victory over Chad in 2007.
Siphiwe Tshabalala opened the scoring for Bafana before a brace from striker Katlego Mphela. Kaizer Chiefs striker Bernard Parker finished off the scoring in the 90th minute of the game.
South Africa 1-1 Bulgaria
Date: May 24, 2010.
Venue: Soccer City, Johannesburg.
Referee: Fagla Kakou (South Africa).
The draw against the Lions was Bafana’s toughest encounter in the warm-up matches with the hosts fading out in the second half after an impressive first-half display. Siyabonga Sangweni opened the scoring in the 20th minute, however it was short lived as Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov equalised 11 minutes later.
South Africa 2-1Colombia
Date: May 27, 2010.
Venue: Soccer City, Johannesburg.
Referee: Samwel Langat. Kipngetich (Kenya)
All three goals in this match came from the penalty spot with Bafana winning the first spot kick in the 18th minute, converted by Teko Modise from his second attempt after the referee ordered a retake.
Colombia were awarded a penalty in the 21st minute before Mphela scored the winner from the spot in the 58th minute.
South Africa 5-0 Guatemala
Date: May 31, 2010.
Venue: Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane. Referee: Ibraham Chaivu (Niger)
South Africa’s biggest ever victory was marred by the decision of the Niger referee who awarded a controversial penalty to the hosts in the 12th minute. Mphela converted the spot kick, which started a goal rush for Bafana that saw them score two more goals before another controversial penalty was awarded to Guatemala.
Moeneeb Joesephs saved the penalty before South Africa won another penalty which was converted by Mphela.