S. Africa suspends officials over fixing claims

The South African Football Association suspended its president
and four other officials Monday after a FIFA report into
match-fixing ahead of the 2010 World Cup found ”compelling
evidence” that one or more games were fixed by betting
syndicates.

In a statement Monday, the association said it issued an apology
to the world soccer body and said it would launch its own internal
investigation into the officials’ actions. As part of the
investigation, it said the association’s committee asked President
Kirsten Nematandani to ”take a voluntary leave of absence from his
position.”

Four other association officials – Dennis Mumble, Lindile `Ace’
Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane – also were asked to take
voluntary leave, the statement said. Mwelo Nonkonyana, the
association’s vice president, has taken over as interim
president.

”This is a difficult situation for the association, and for
those who have been named in the report,” Nonkonyana said in the
statement. ”We hope that there will be no speculation about their
presumed guilt or otherwise. We need to allow the investigation to
take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be
separated from those who are not.”

The association said Saturday that it had received the report
from FIFA on Friday. The association acknowledged then that it had
been ”infiltrated” two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer
Wilson Perumal and his ”bogus” football company Football4U, which
was a front for Asian betting syndicates.

No players have been implicated in fixing matches. Instead,
FIFA-approved referees appointed by Perumal’s Football4U were
thought to have manipulated one or more of South Africa’s World Cup
buildup games for betting markets. Perumal could have also been
aided by some South African officials, SAFA said.

SAFA didn’t immediately identify the games but South Africa’s
5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in late May 2010 –
two weeks before the World Cup kicked off – were under
suspicion.

Three penalties for handball were awarded by Niger referee
Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31, with
two of them appearing to be incorrect. Chaibou is also being sought
for questioning by FIFA for his handling of other suspicious games
in Africa, Asia and South America, where a high number of penalties
were awarded, apparently to feed betting scams.

All three goals in the South Africa-Colombia game on May 27,
which was refereed by a Kenyan official, came from penalty kicks.
That match was the official opening of South Africa’s redeveloped
Soccer City showpiece stadium, which hosted Spain’s victory over
Netherlands in the World Cup final a little more than a month
later.

South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1
in preparation games ahead of the World Cup.

After allegations of fixing in the World Cup buildup, SAFA asked
FIFA to take over the investigation. The world football body began
looking at the matches in March this year.

Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP