HARARE: Reports from Zimbabwe have claimed that the football association has suspended 80 players, including most of the national team squad, on suspicion of being linked to a match-fixing scandal involving Asian betting syndicates, state media reported on Wednesday.
Investigations have under way for some time, with the support of FIFA, and ZIFA set up an independent ethics committee to probe alleged match-fixing.
A ZIFA inquiry last year led to a number of Zimbabwe players admitting accepting money from an Asian betting syndicate to lose friendly matches on Far East trips between 2007 and 2009 with a particular focus on matches in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand in 2007.
The report said the money was handed out by agents of Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, who is currently in jail in Finland for fixing games there.
Chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said: “The ZIFA board has resolved that all players implicated in the match-fixing scandal must not be included in the national team matches from now onwards.”
He said they must be cleared by the association’s ethics committee, which is investigating the scandal, before they can play for the team again.
Former Zimbabwe captain Method Mwanjali and top internationals Daniel Vheremu, Benjamin Marere and Thomas Sweswe, along with a member of the coaching staff, Joey Antipas, all made statements admitting taking money. The list of players who featured in the matches and are now suspended includes key members of the current squad Nyasha Mushekwi, Khama Billiat and Ovidy Karuru.
The decision to suspend the players was made during an emergency board meeting to review Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations currently under way in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. That failure raised suspicions among Zimbabwean fans.
Mashingaidze dded: “The sentiment in every Zimbabwean was that the team was failing to qualify for major tournaments since we were using players who had been tainted by this scanda. For now the coach has been instructed to call up only players who are clean and cannot be manipulated to throw away matches.
“Every player who was mentioned in the ‘Asiagate’ report, regardless of how many matches played, are suspended and will only be cleared by the ethics committee. For now, they are not eligible for selection in any national duty commitments.”
The South African Football Association has not received any notification yet concerning several of its own clubs’ players implicated in the scandal.
Those playing club football in the PSL are Mamelodi Sundowns duo Nyasha Mushekwi and Method Mwanjali, Kaizer Chiefs’s Thomas Sweswe, Khama Billiat of Ajax Cape Town, Black Leopards’s Kingston Nkatha and Bidvest Wits’s Energy Murambadoro.
“I can’t confirm until I receive something from Zifa,” said Wits coach and chief executive Roger de Sa. However his understanding was that the suspensions applied only for national duty.
Last September, ZIFA suspended three of its board members pending further investigation, for their alleged involvement in the scandal.
Qualifying matches for the 2013 African Nations Cup begin later this month with Zimbabwe due to open their compaign against Burundi on February 29.