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Nigeria bans players for fixed games

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ABUJA, Nigeria (AP)

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Players, team officials and referees were banned for life and four amateur clubs for 10 years after Nigeria's soccer federation found they fixed two lower-league playoff games that ended with scores of 79-0 and 67-0.

In findings of an investigation sent to The Associated Press on Tuesday, the Nigerian Football Federation ruled that there was ''a fraudulent conspiracy among the teams'' to fix the games after Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine figured out that they needed to boost their goal tallies to beat the other to promotion to the lowest tier of Nigeria's professional league.

Plateau United Feeders beat Akurba FC 79-0 and Police Machine was allowed to beat Babayaro FC 67-0 in the fixes, which were played at the same time early this month. One player scored 14 goals in the Plateau United Feeders game, while another scored 11 goals. On more than one occasion as many as four goals were scored in a minute in the games.

In sweeping sanctions, Nigeria's federation banned every player involved. Also, all the coaching and technical teams, the referees and assistant referees and the match commissioners were thrown out of soccer for life for ''allowing the game to be brought into disrepute and for not using their powers,'' the NFF said in its report.

The NFF named 28 players as goal scorers - and own goal scorers - in the two games, responsible for a scarcely-believable 146 goals.

Akurba captain Anjide Said Timothy was identified by the NFF as one of the organizers of the ''scandalous'' results. He scored three own goals in Akurba's huge loss, the NFF said.

The NFF did not find evidence of any money being paid, but said none of the teams disputed that the games were fixed. A telling clue was that the Police Machine-Babayaro game was only 2-0 at halftime, and 65 goals were then scored in the second half.

''While the winners were desperate to win, the losers were too willing to lose,'' the federation said. ''Circumstantial evidence was overwhelmingly high and points to only one conclusion, of match-fixing of an unprecedented nature, which has brought global embarrassment to the Nigeria Football Federation, in particular, and the nation in general.''

The head official at the center where the games took place, in the northeastern city of Bauchi, has had his case referred to the league which oversaw the playoff tournament.

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