‘SA match-fixing pre-dates 2010 WC’

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iol spt mar7 Bafana`1 Gallo Images Safa will announce the new Bafana coach at a National Executive Committee meeting, Safa CEO Dennis Mumble said. Photo: Ashley Vlotman

Johannesburg - Match-fixing involving Bafana Bafana probably pre-dates the friendlies leading into the 2010 Fifa World Cup, former Fifa investigator Terry Steans said.

Steans was commissioned by football's international governing body to write the 2012 report into South Africa's friendly matches played just before the hosting of the 2010 event.

“Infiltration (of Safa) was probably made well before then,” Steans told a Sapa correspondent by phone from London over the weekend.

“Wilson Perumal (a convicted Singaporean match-fixer) had contacts with Henrietta Rushwaya of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) way before that. He was in Zimbabwe as early as 2007.

“He was active in the region from then and would have had relationships with his South African contacts.”

Rushwaya was acquitted last September on charges of sending makeshift national teams on trips to Asia without the authority of the Zifa board.

iol spt pic Bafana world cup Bafana Bafana supporters during the 2010 World Cup. INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

A magistrate ruled that Zifa chiefs were aware of the trips, where players and officials allegedly took bribes to lose matches.

The scandal led to her dismissal while dozens of players and officials were either fined, suspended, or banned.

The initial wave of Bafana's four fixed friendlies - against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia, and Guatemala - all took place in the second half of May 2010. Steans was in little doubt that these matches were just the tip of the local match-fixing iceberg.

Of particular interest to Steans and the then head of Fifa security, Chris Eaton, was a hastily arranged friendly between Bafana Bafana and Zimbabwe at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in late January 2010.

The match took place in “shady circumstances” with certain members of Safa reportedly being unaware it was about to take place.

“There is no doubt that the game was highly suspicious,” he said.

The friendly against Zimbabwe - won 3-0 by Bafana - was identified in the Fifa report as likely to have been dubious, but such were the parameters of the report that it was not deemed worthy of further investigation.

According to Steans, this was because Fifa security was constrained by investigating matches referred to in contracts by Perumal's organisation, Football4U, and Safa itself.

These contracts deal with matches played after the end of April 2010, while the Zimbabwe game was played on January 27.

“There was also the Zimbabwe angle and, as investigations were continuing there, we decided instead to concentrate on the pre-World Cup matches here in South Africa,” said Steans.

Bafana's friendly against Zimbabwe was primarily to raise money for the then cash-strapped national association. It however had the secondary function of providing Perumal and the Singaporean ring with a match that could be manipulated for the illegal betting markets of Thailand, Malaysia, and China.

Safa officials are quoted in the Fifa report as saying that they had significant doubts about the match. But like much else associated with the Fifa report, these concerns appear to have been swept under the carpet as the organisation caved in to the need for self-preservation and the protection of high-profile individuals.

The report has not given rise to a police investigation and the once hoped-for presidential-sanctioned commission of inquiry failed to materialise.

“I would definitely have liked it to have gone further,” said Steans.

Matters, however, appear to be coming to a head for the beleaguered association. Declan Hill, the Canadian investigative journalist famous for two books on international crime and match-fixing, was sleuthing around in South Africa a month ago. His findings were published in the New York Times this weekend.

His conclusions paint a portrait of a bankrupt and divided organisation hardly capable of running the showpiece event. Indeed, on the fourth anniversary of the 2010 tournament, eyes are likely to be turned on Safa, and issues of legacy, for the first time in years.

The match-fixing focus this week has been largely on Nigeria. There were suspicious flows of late money placed on the outcome of their friendly against Scotland at Fulham's Craven Cottage ground in London on Wednesday night. It also looks as though their 2010 World Cup game against Greece was subject to some highly-questionable refereeing.

Theirs was not an auspicious start to the 2010 tournament because the notorious Ibrahim Chaibou of Niger refereed their pre-tournament friendly against North Korea at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa - a match widely felt to be rigged, before it was temporarily abandoned.

“Anthony Santia Raj, in agreement with Safa officials, appointed Chaibou as referee,” stated the Fifa report.

Both Perumal and Raj, his associate, were reported to be angry that the attempted fixing of the previous day's match between Bafana and Denmark was nipped in the bud by Safa official Steve Goddard.

For his troubles, Goddard received a death threat via mobile phone from Perumal in which he was told he would be “eliminated” if he did not collude with Chaibou's appointment for Nigeria's friendly the following day.

Safa spokesman Dominic Chimhavi on Monday said match-fixing in South Africa was a stale story and there was nothing new in the article published by the New York Times this weekend.

“We wanted the investigation expedited at the time, as it didn't sit well with us. Fifa has since taken over the inquiry and South Africa is just one of 73 countries being investigated by Fifa.”

Sapa



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