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Global Corruption in Football, It was never a ‘Beautiful Game’ part 1
When we hear the words ‘Match Fixing’ or ‘Corruption’, we as English Premier League fans immediately think of Italy and Juventus after the massive scandal back in 2006. It involved The Old Lady, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Reggina and even Lazio, four of which are in the major five clubs we associate with Italy, due to the Champions League. The only one missing was Inter Milan. However are we really that jingoistic, that blindly patriotic to the game, let alone our own country, as to believe it’s only a problem in one country?
Over the coming posts (it’s too large to cover in one) I am going name and shame the corrupt leagues for sins against the game in the past or the present – starting with Africa – which some of you won’t even care about but should. Because if it can happen in these smaller countries, where there’s hardly any money involved, do you not think, just slightly, that in the world’s most expensive, most valuable and most watched league there won’t be similar, if not ever so slightly more concealed, events happening?
Let’s start with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nazaire Diabinda the director of the Institute for the Deaf, who stated, “Wiping out football corruption in the Congo is impossible.” This was after he discovered that deaf and dumb teenagers, working the turnstiles at games for $4, were selling off tickets at discounted rates to ticket touts. The touts had mastered sign language just to convey to the teenagers that they would be rewarded for doing so – this was after League secretary Badji Mombu claimed they were ‘incorruptible’. It doesn’t just stop at unscrupulous ticket touts. Back in 2010/11, African Champions TP Mazembe were accused of trying to bribe Egyptian referees ahead of their Champions League clash against Simba of Tanzania. The referees refused a bribe of $10,000 US Dollars. A CAF official told ‘Ahram Arabic Portal‘ that, “Egyptian referees Yasser Abdel-Raouf, Ayman Deguesh, Tamer Salah and Fahim Omar submitted a report to the CAF informing them that they were offered a negotiable $10,000 thousand bribe to ease TP Mazembe’s mission against Simba.” Sadly that wasn’t the end of it. To make matters worse, when the referees refused the offer, they were reportedly harassed. They were threatened with death if they reported it. The referees in question held their tongues until they got back to Cairo. Of course the TP Mazembe official, Claude Bushiri, refuted these claims saying, “Ours is one of the best teams in the world, we believe that success in major competitions is the outcome of adequate and scientific preparations.” There’s no mention of an inquiry, or indeed anything, after the 1st April 2011. It’s not even on their Wikipedia entry, where every big event in football is portrayed in some fashion, be it good or bad.
Next on our tour around Africa is Zimbabwe, and something that has been labelled ‘Asiagate‘. Now Asiagate, for those who don’t know, is an Asian match-fixing scandal which occurred between 2007-2009 – where the players and referees involved received bribes to throw matches. This in turn led to the sacking of the ZIFA chief executive. The manager of Zimbabwe football team, the Zimbabwe Warriors, told officials investigating the scam, “At halftime, officials got fifteen hundred US dollars each, when we finished (a match), players got between five and six thousand dollars each and officials received between seven and eight thousand dollars.“
Although this happened five years ago, and surfaced a a massive three years later, the first proper action was only taken by the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) in February 2012, when they temporarily banned around 90 people including coaches. The ZIFA chief executive who was fired, ‘Henrieta Rushwaya’, was said to have masterminded the scam. She has been arrested and faces jail time if convicted. The ones who truly suffer from this are the fans, a lot of whom feel that this scandal is surely going to ruin their chances of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations. Though a majority have the right attitude, with one fan Lindiwe Malaba saying, “They are greedy. We will not miss them at all. They have brought shame to this country.” This sentiment also felt by retired Zimbabwe forward Alois Bunjira, who feels the people involved deserve their fate for putting the country to shame. However after reading several accounts, I don’t feel this entirely accurate. Whilst I agree with the fans and Bunjira 99%, I feel sorry for the teams goalkeeper, Energy Murambadoro, who is known to have cried when he was told to allow goals to fly past him. This strikes me as a player with little to no choice, and I genuinely feel remorse for him.
Back in March 2012 an initial Fifa match-fixing probe actually cleared South Africa of match-fixing. However the Fifa official was only looking into international match-fixing, as the side was under investigation for matches leading up to the 2010 World Cup, and two friendlies against Colombia and Guatemala. Fifa were put onto this lead by a convicted match-fixer, a Singaporean by the name of Wilson Raj Perumal (we shall delve into him more when I get to Europe and Finland). Apparently Perumal convinced the South African FA (SAFA) to appoint referees through his company. It is also believed that Perumal had a hand in Zimbabwe’s tour of Asia, where a number of international matches were fixed. Whilst Fifa’s initial stage probe didn’t turn anything up with South Africa’s international matches, an article came out in August of this year and the message was plain and simple, “Cheating is rife in South Africa”. The SAFA head, Kristen Nematandani, conceded that both referees and players were culpable. “Referees are being bribed and officials are making decisions to benefit themselves and their friends rather than the good of the game”. He went on to say that the problem was getting larger and the country needed help. In fact the week before he gave this conference, Kaizer Chiefs team manager, Bobby Motaung, was arrested in connection with fraud. This was over the building of the Mbombela stadium, an arena used for the 2010 World Cup that cost around $142 million. Nematanda left the conference by saying, “It is now a matter of public record that we were targeted by a betting syndicate before the 2010 World Cup. In March this year Fifa came to investigate and we gave them our full co-operation. We hope to have the conclusion of their investigations soon.”
I for one will be waiting to see what, if anything, Fifa manages to turn up.
This blog entry became larger than anticipated, as to begin with, it was merely going to be just the DR Congo, Zimbabwe and Goa. That was until I found South Africa, and now finally Gambia. You can see why this is going to have to be done in chapters, the next will be India/Asia.
The last case of the night pertains to a Gambian First Division side called Young Africans FC. It all started in June, when the Young Africans went to play Real de Banjul. Banjul needed a win to secure their first league title in five years at the expense of the Gambia Armed Forces and Gambia Ports Authority. They came out and beat the Young Africans 3-1 and 48 hours later, the Gambian side sacked their manager. After being sacked from the Young Africans, Pa Samba Mbenga came out to the press and stated that the match against Real de Banjul was actually fixed. Mbenga made his allegations in an interview given to West Coast Radio where he said that he was suspicious 10 minutes into the game, when he turned around to his bench to ask what was happening. This was because he saw a different Young Africans side on the pitch. He was then told by one of the substitute palyers to relax, and that the two teams had agreed to throw away the game in Banjul’s favour.
The Gambia Football Associations’ (GFA) secretary general, Abdul Salam Jammeh, claimed that they had not received a written complaint and would not investigate the match until such time as they had one from one of the parties involved. This was rectified a couple of weeks later, when an official complaint was lodged by Armed Forces Football Club about the match in question. The GFA then set up a task force headed by a lawyer, Cherno Marenah, as chairman. According to a piece by Lamin Cham, the terms of reference of the task force are to:
1. Look into allegations of match-fixing in the match between Real De Banjul v Young Africans.
3. Gather any other evidence relevant to the allegations made.
4. Compile a report containing material facts and recommendations to be sent to the Normalisation Committee of the GA within four weeks of it’s sitting.
Once again I shall continue to monitor this situation, as I shall the Zimbabwe shambles, but it is a worrying state of affairs. I shall continue as soon as possible with more.
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