NYON: Malta international Kevin Sammut’s insistence of  his innocence of matchfixing charges have fallen on deaf ears; European federation UEFA has banned the 31-year-old from football for 10 years and the suspension is certain to be endorsed worldwide by FIFA writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Valletta midfielder Sammut has denied helping to manipulate the result of Malta’s 4-0 defeat  away to Norway in June 2007 in the qualifying competition for the 2008 European Championship. He can appeal to UEFA and then, if he wishes, to the Xourt of Arbitration for Lausanne.

Kenneth Scicluna, also of Valletta, and Stephen Wellman of Qormi FC were acquitted of charges due to lack of evidence.

The case followed an inquiry by UEFA into claims made by members of a Croat syndicate who were convicted of match-fixing last year in the extensive and long-running trial in Bochum, Germany.

UEFA had commissioned an inquiry from the Malta FA after the  trial. It had taken three months during which more than 30 people were interviewed in compiling a 600-page dossier which had been submitted to UEFA.

Sammut was substituted at halftime in the Euro 2008 qualifier when Malta trailed 1-0. Norway scored three late goals which ramped up the value of bets placed on how many goals they would score.

Sammut, in a press conference along with his lawyers Michael Sciriha, Emanuel Mallia and Lucio Sciriha, continued to protest his innocence. He said: “I love football and I do not want to carry this ban for the rest of my life. People have said I should uncover the truth but there is nothing I can uncover: I do not know anything about this whole case.”

Sciriha criticised UEFA’s disciplinary process, claiming that its insistence on speed had denied Sammut a fair hearing. He thought this was why the investigator’s demand for a life ban had been diluted. Sammut had been used as a scapegoat and “paid a price he should never had paid.”

Mallia claimed that UEFA had not given the defence team even time to examine the accusations, that Sammut had been prejudiced on noit being afford to take witnesses to Geneva and UEFA’s failure to respond to a request for translation of some documents in German.

Sciriha said that, during last Friday’s hearing, he cross-examined Croatian fixer Marijo Cvrtak who had identified the Malta-Norway game during the Bochum trial. Cvrtak, said Sciriha, had never named either Sammut of two other Malta players he claimed to have met at an Oslo hotel.

In another disciplinary decision, UEFA has confirmed  Anorthosis Famagusta’s elimination from the  Europa League after crowd trouble forced the abandonment of their home game against Dila Gori. Anorthosis have also been ordered to play their next three European home games behind closed doors and fined €15,000.

The Cypriot club were 3-0 down at home against their Georgian opponents when the game was called off. The match has been declared forfeit, but as the score was 3-0 to Dila Gori when it was abandoned, this result stands.

Dila will play Portugal’s CS Marítimo in the play-off round.


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