Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea denies bribery report
The African Champions League was again unsettled and undermined
by controversy Monday when Ghanaian club Berekum Chelsea denied
being offered money by four-time winner and 2010 Club World Cup
finalist T.P. Mazembe to lose their final group game.
Less than a month after E.S. Sahel was thrown out of the
competition for fan unrest in its Tunisian derby against Esperance,
Berekum called a news report in Tunisia ”utterly false” after it
alleged bribes were offered at a meeting by Mazembe officials to
throw Sunday’s Group B game.
Mazembe has just returned to the often troubled continental club
competition after being disqualified last year for fielding an
The report alleged Mazembe – a surprise finalist at the Club
World Cup two years ago – wanted Berekum to lose to it so the
Congolese team could finish top of their group and avoid Group A
winner and defending champion Esperance of Tunisia in next month’s
Already eliminated, Berekum won 1-0 to send Mazembe into a
two-legged last-four tie against Esperance. Egypt’s Al Ahly will
play Sunshine Stars of Nigeria in the other semifinal.
”Our attention has been drawn to a publication by a Tunisian
news portal that T.P. Mazembe officials offered to bribe Berekum
Chelsea to influence the result of our game on Sunday,” Berekum
chief executive Nana Kwame Nketiah said in a statement Monday. ”We
wish to state categorically that this report is utterly
Nketiah denied any meeting with Mazembe officials took place
ahead of the game and warned media ”to desist from spreading such
false reports or we will be forced to take legal action to salvage
our hard-earned reputation.”
Mazembe gained fame two years ago when it became the first
African team to reach the Club World Cup final, beating clubs from
United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Brazil before eventually losing to
then European champion Inter Milan. Last season it was thrown out
of Africa’s top club competition for using Congo international
defender Janvier Bokungu when he wasn’t registered with the
Tunisia’s Sahel was disqualified from this year’s version after
supporters threw stones, bottles and firecrackers and invaded the
pitch in the second half of the game against Esperance last month.
The referee stopped the match in the 69th minute with Esperance
leading 2-0 and all Sahel’s results in the group stage were
In the other Group B game Sunday, Al Ahly drew 1-1 with Cairo
rival Zamalek but still topped the group ahead of Mazembe to set up
a semifinal meeting with Sunshine Stars.
Esperance qualified first in Group A despite a 1-0 loss at
Algeria’s ASO Chlef which prevented the Tunisian giant from setting
a record for consecutive games unbeaten in the African Champions
Esperance was undefeated in 19 games to equal Al Ahly’s record –
set between the 2004 and 2006 seasons – before the loss on
Algeria’s Mediterranean coast.