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Nov 2, 2012

Zimbabwe chief disbands team

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's national team was disbanded Friday as a match-fixing scandal continued to seriously undermine the sport in the country even after the conclusion of an investigation into widespread corruption.

ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube questioned the integrity of the team in its last match two weeks ago after it let a 3-1 aggregate lead slip against Angola to miss out on qualification for next year's African Cup of Nations.

Dube said the team -- dogged for more than two years by fixing allegations and with some players and officials only recently banned for life -- had now been "discarded."

"The Warriors, if indeed they were Warriors, have been dissolved en masse," Dube said, referring to the team by its nickname. "We will rebuild from the under-20 and the under-23s. These are people who are clean. The team has been discarded in its entirety."

Dube said only a few current players would be kept after the long-running scandal.

Dube also said his body would put in place an appeals process in accordance with FIFA rules after the 15 players, officials and reporters were banned for life for helping fix Zimbabwe games on tours to Asia in 2009.

ZIFA would have to appoint an independent three-man committee, Dube said, because some members of its current appeals committee were "interested parties." It showed how far match-fixing had seeped into Zimbabwean football and ravaged the setup.

Dube said those that were banned were able to appeal from Monday.

Among those given life bans this month were former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya, former national team coach Sunday Chidzambwa, former captain Method Mwanjali and a reporter, Robson Sharuko.

Chidzambwa has launched an appeal in the courts and has been replaced in his job as head coach of South African club Black Leopards to allow him time to fight the sanction.

Rushwaya was said to be the mastermind of the fixing, where matches were rigged by an Asian betting syndicate linked to Singaporean mastermind Wilson Raj Perumal, who has been jailed in Finland.

Zimbabwe lost to Jordan 2-0, to Thailand 3-0 and to Syria 6-0 on its Asian tours, and players told an ethics committee investigation of how representatives of the betting syndicates were even present in the team's dressing room at halftime of one match to give instructions on how the game should go.

Most recently, Zimbabwe lost in Angola 2-0 on Oct. 14, with both goals in the opening seven minutes to lose on away goals after winning the first leg 3-1. The match is not believed to be under scrutiny for match-fixing.

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