KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: South Africa, which hosts the African Nations Cup next month, has been overtaken by the worst crisis in its history after a FIFA investigation into international matchfixing – only two years after glorying in its hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

Kirsten Nematandani, the president of the South African Football Association, has been suspended along with new chief executive officer Dennis Mumble, head of national teams Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika, referees boss Adeel Carelse and Bafana manager Barney Kujane after the world federation found “compelling evidence” that friendly internationals were fixed by Far East betting syndicates.

A week ago former national team aide Phil “Mr Jones” Setshedi was convicted of a fixing a domestic match by a criminal court.

According to a report by the world governing body, SAFA had been suborned a crime syndicate, Football 4U International, headed by notorious convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.

He organised referees from other African countries for games against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up the 2010 finals. The outcomes had reportedly been fixed to benefit an Asian betting syndicate.

‘Good governance’

SAFA has stated that none of the suspended five had been implicated in any wrongdoing. Outgoing chief executive Robin Petersen – who had been due to hand over next month to Mumble – said: “These suspensions were necessary for good governance and for allowing this matter to be thoroughly and properly investigated.”

Petersen is moving to a newly-created development role within SAFA and Pinky Lehoko will return as acting CEO.

However, Nematandani did not move aside without a fight. SAFA’s emergency committee advised him twice to step down because his name had been mentioned in the FIFA report. When he refused, the organisation suspended him, according to media sources.

SAFA’s acting president, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, said: “This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in match-fixing.” But he added that a letter in the report suggested that Nematandani met Perumal and gave him the go-ahead for the tainted matches.

Nonkonyana added: “The president has been asked to give evidence at the inquiry like all the other people mentioned.”

Nonkonyana said SAFA was handing the report to local police; it did not implicate any South African players.

A statement on the SAFA website  said the organisation “accepted FIFA’s report as received” and added that “a commission of enquiry will be set up, under the leadership of a retired judge, to fully investigate the matter and the members cited in the report.”

Leslie Sedibe, who was SAFA ceo at the time of the alleged match-fixing, said he would study the report and cooperate fully with the inquiry, adding that he had “nothing to do with this Perumal guy.” Sedibe added:  “Ace dealt with him.”

Four matches

The 500-page FIFA report follows an investigation by the organisation’s security department of Bafana matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up to South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup finals.

Perumal offered to arrange, and pay for, the friendlies as well as provide referees. The referees fixed the matches, according to the FIFA report, making dubious decisions on offsides and penalties.

South Africa’s 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in May 2010 – two weeks before the World Cup kicked off – have long been under suspicion.

Niger referee Chaibou Ibrahim awarded three penalties for handball in the Guatemala game and FIFA has been trying to question him for more than a year over his handling of several matches. All three goals in the match against Colombia, refereed by a Kenyan official, came from penalties.

This is the second South African football corruption eruption in a week. On December 11 former national team technical staff member Phil “Mr Jones” Setshedi was found guilty of match fixing by the Bellville Commercial Crimes Court in Cape Town.

Setshegi had worked with Clive Barker when Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil in 1996 as his assistant. He also played for Orlando Pirates where he doubled up as their coach. One of his incredible records was going 17 games unbeaten at one stage. Before joining Pirates, Setshedi played for Moroka Swallows Babes.

He also used to operate a clothing shop at Carlton Centre that was frequented by top business people and celebrities.

Setshedi was convicted of an attempt to unduly and improperly influence the outcome of one of the 2011 Safa Vodacom play-off matches in Cape Town.

At the time Nematandani said:  “This is a strong statement to anyone who might intend to tarnish the good name of the sport through match fixing or other unsporting behaviour.

“In accordance with FIFA and SAFA’s zero tolerance for corruption and match fixing, we would like to warn other potential criminals that the long arm of the law would not spare you.”

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