KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —– FIFA’s ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia has lost patience with South Africa and is to reactivate the world federation’s own inquiry into match-fixing in international friendlies in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup.
Earlier this week the anti-fix campaigner Declan Hill claimed that the South African Football Association had been effectively run by the matchfixers as far as its warm-up matches were concerned.
Back in December 2011 five senior SAFA officials were suspended over the issue but they were then ‘freed’ in time for South Africa’s prestige hosting of the African Nations Cup in January and February this year.
The five were the then SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani, the acting/incoming ceo Dennis Mumble, referees official Adeel Carelse, head of national teams Lindile Kika, and former head of national teams Barney Kujane.
In April SAFA’s national executive committee endorsed an agreement with FIFA and the Sports Ministry to appoint a judicial inquiry into the alleged matchfixing. FIFA was concerned to be involved to obviate its concerns over governmental interference in the game’s administration.
The SAFA executive also recommended that no past or present officials involved in football be part of the commission, while it was agreed that one of the three members of the inquiry would be Michael Garcia, FIFA independent ethics investigator/prosecutor. It recommended a three month deadline.
That would have meant a conclusion to the investigation by the end of July. In fact, nothing happened.
A statement from the world federation has indicated that Michael Garcia, the chairman of FIFA’s ethics committee investigating chamber, had “decided to open a preliminary investigation on the alleged cases of match-manipulation in South Africa in view of the time elapsed.”
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has sought to mask local failures to progress the inquiry with a blustering attack on FIFA for “not having the courtesy” of notifying him or President Jacob Zuma of Garcia’s move. His reaction and words vindicated FIFA’s concerns over ministerial interference.
The original matchfixing 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.
These matches were allegedly fixed by referees appointed by a shadowy sports marketing group Football4U.
Responsibility for the arrangement, according to former SAFA chief executive Leslie Sedibe last year, fell to Kika though he has insisted he never had the authority to make such decisions.
Earlier this year, according to local media, he said: “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 his successor Carelse undertook background checks on the three referees for the Bafana matches [Goddard and Carelse were later involved in a war of words of their own].
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 Bafana beat Guatemala 5-0, was handled by a referee from Niger who should 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 grown concerned.
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 has been under investigation by FIFA and Interpol, tried unsuccessfully after the World Cup to become involved in the organisation of the South Africa under-23 team in the Olympic qualifiers.
Perumal has also been linked to a fake Togo team that played in Bahrain and the Zimbabwe Football Association has identified him in its 160-page report into its own massive national team match-fixing case during national team tours to Asia from 2007-09.
Earlier this week Hill – in launching his new book: The Insider’s Guide to Matchfixing in Football – described South Africa, before the 2010 World Cup, as “an open house for the fixers.”
SAFA now has a new president in the World Cup organising ceo Danny Jordaan who was elected in September. Nematandani did not even contest the election.
As for Garcia, the clarification that he is back at work on South Africa may quell fevered speculation over his review of the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.