PRETORIA: After the Zimbabwe corruption scandal, a senior official in South Africa has suggested that the national team’s warm-up matches ahead of the 2010 World Cup were probably targeted by match fixers from Asian betting syndicates.

Reports from South Africa say the  match-fixing allegations centre on national team games in May 2010 against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala. These were arranged by Wilson Raj Perumal, a Singaporean, who has since been jailed in Finland for fixing games in that country and who has been linked to the Zimbabwe scandal.

Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika, who is the SAFA head of national teams, has denied any personal involvement in wrong-doing that were allegedly fixed by referees appointed by a shadowy sports marketing group Football4U.

The blame for arranging the matches was shifted to Kika, pictured, by former Safa chief executive Leslie Sedibe, who told The Sunday Times he had delegated this to Kika.

Kika countered this yesterday by saying he never had the authority to make such decisions.

He added: “I am surprised Leslie says he delegated the organisation of these friendly games to me. These guys (Perumal and his organisation) approached us about a referees exchange programme. I thought it was a good opportunity for our local referees to interact with other internationals. I did not speak to them, but Leslie did. They never met with me.”

The matches were ahead of the World Cup opener against Mexico at Soccer City on June 11 and were refereed by African officials organised by Football4U.

Kika said Steve Goddard, a former SAFA head of referees, and Adele Carelse, who has since taken over that role, undertook background checks on the three referees for the Bafana matches.

He added: “The referees’ names were on the FIFA list and that was confirmation for us that they could be trusted. However, their performances were below par and so we changed for the last game against Denmark.”

The 4-0 win over Thailand and 2-1 win over Colombia were refereed by a Kenyan, while the one against Bulgaria was officiated by a Togolese referee.

The fourth match, in which Bafana beat Guatemala 5-0, was handled by a referee from Niger who would have been on duty in the final friendly against Denmark, but was changed in the tunnel before the team ran out as SAFA officials had become suspicious.

Kika said: “During the Colombia game we became suspicious. We believed our winning penalty was a bit soft and unfair to our opponents.”

Football4U, which is under investigation by FIFA and Interpol, tried after the World Cup to become involved in the organisation of the South Africa under-23 team in the Olympic qualifiers.

“We did not let that happen,” said Kika.

Perumal has also been linked to a fake Togo team that played in Bahrain and last week the Zimbabwe Football Association identified him in its 160-page report into alleged match-fixing on their national team tours to Asia from 2007-09.