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Dec, 17, 2012

South African FA in match-fixing scandal

Five top officials including president Kirsten Nematandani and newly appointed chief executive Dennis Mumble have been suspended from the South African Football Association (SAFA) following a match-fixing report.

• Blog: South Africa's shame

The investigation found four Bafana Bafana matches played in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup were fixed. SAFA will establish a commission of enquiry and the five members of staff who will give evidence have been put on special administrative leave until the probe is complete.

"This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in match-fixing. It is again simply for good governance that this measure is being implemented," SAFA explained in a press release.

A FIFA investigation into the pre-World Cup friendlies and the activities of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal revealed that his fake organisation, Football 4U, was also involved in South Africa. Perumal is under house arrest in Hungary after being handed a two-year jail term for fixing matches in Finland in July 2011. He was also fingered in Zimbabwe's notorious Asia-gate scandal in which 98 players were given varying bans from the game in 2012.

The enquiry began at the behest of SAFA, who asked FIFA to look into speculative claims that matches were fixed in the lead up to the World Cup. Former head of security, Chris Eaton found "compelling evidence," to suggest they were.

He unveiled that Football 4U offered to assist with referee development in South Africa and to provide officials, at their own cost, to officiate in the matches. Eaton identified various SAFA officials who had interacted with Football 4U, although SAFA's national executive committee was never informed of the involvement of the company in South Africa.

The fixtures in question were all played in May 2010 at home against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala. South Africa won three of the four, with the draw coming against Bulgaria. The victories over Thailand (4-0) and Guatemala (5-0) were achieved with record margins, the first equalling South Africa's best ever win and the second surpassing it.

Although no penalties were awarded against Thailand or Bulgaria, all the goals in the Colombia game came through spot kicks and two of the ones in the Guatemala match were scored the same way. In the Colombia match, a handball resulted in a penalty being awarded to Bafana Bafana but when Teko Modise missed, the referee ruled that the goalkeeper had moved too early in his effort to save it, and the penalty was retaken.

The first penalty against Guatemala was also called controversially. It was awarded despite contact being made outside the box. The second penalty was given for a hand-ball and appeared more clear-cut.

South Africa went into the World Cup on a 12-match unbeaten streak which went back to November 2009. Although they would not have competed in the tournament if they were not hosting it, the form they were in led to country-wide expectation that they may advance out of the group stage. A draw with Mexico was followed by a loss to Uruguay. Despite beating France, South Africa became the first hosts to be knocked out of the competition in the opening round.

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