Owen da Gama says he’s delighted a Platinum Stars investigation has exonerated him on allegations of soliciting bribery from players, bringing to an end what he described as “two months of hell”.
Da Gama, who had been at the helm of the club for a second stint, was suspended by the Stars board following newspaper reports that he had allegedly sought money from players for them to be selected in his squad, but the Rustenburg-based side released a statement yesterday saying their investigation had found such claims had “no basis”.
“Platinum Stars are satisfied that Owen is not guilty of this and it is necessary to say that his conduct during this investigation, which was trying and difficult, was exemplary,” a Stars statement said. “After a full independent investigation into the allegation, the club has concluded that there is no basis for the allegation that was made against Owen.”
Da Gama, however, was still removed as head coach after Stars agreed to settle his contract, which still had 13 months to run.
“I’m very happy with the outcome, but I knew that I would be cleared,” a relieved Da Gama told The Star.
“I said all along that my integrity as a coach has never been put into question. People who know me knew this thing (requesting bribes from players) was highly impossible.”
On being removed as Stars coach in spite of being cleared, the former Moroka Swallows striker admitted it would have been difficult to seek reinstatement after having been away from the team for more than two months.
“I was quite aware that I would not return as coach, and I’m happy that we have settled. But what makes me even happier is that this two-month period of hell is finally over. I can move on. It really has been difficult. It’s like someone being accused of rape, then you’re cleared. But the effect it has on your family and friends is immense. It was a very painful period, but I’m glad it was resolved peacefully,” Da Gama said. He reiterated that he will be pursuing legal action against the newspaper that first reported on the story. “I cannot leave it as it is. I have already started with the legal process. The story was clearly started by someone with malicious intent.
“The fact that I have been cleared by the club provides me and my legal team with more proof that this was intended to damage my reputation.”
Da Gama, meanwhile, can now seek employment elsewhere, with Stars confirming they will continue with Alan Freeze and Calvin Johnson as co-coaches.
“I’m a coach and I invested a lot in being one. I know my capabilities but I’m not going to be jumping up and down looking for offers at the moment. Time will tell where I go next,” said Da Gama.