'Compelling evidence' that WCup friendlies fixed
A FIFA report on match-fixing in the weeks before the 2010 World Cup has found ''compelling evidence'' that one or more friendly games involving host South Africa were fixed ahead of the showpiece tournament.
The South African Football Association conceded on Saturday that it had been ''infiltrated'' two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his ''bogus'' football company Football4U - which was actually 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.
''The full extent of the web of international crime is now exposed,'' SAFA chief executive Robin Petersen said after South Africa received the report from FIFA.
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 clearly 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 over a month later.
South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1 in games to prepare for the World Cup.
''The FIFA report addresses the question as to whether one or more of the pre-World Cup friendly matches was fixed and finds compelling evidence that this was indeed the case,'' SAFA said in a statement released in the early hours of Saturday, acknowledging the receipt of FIFA's report on Friday.
SAFA said its emergency committee would continue to study the report compiled by FIFA's former head of security, Chris Eaton, over the weekend and take legal advice before deciding on a course of action.
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.
While no players were thought to be involved in the fixing, SAFA would now investigate some of its own officials on the advice of the FIFA report to see if they colluded with Perumal's Football4U agency ''with criminal intent'' to help appoint referees and fix matches.
''The report identifies various SAFA officials who interacted with Football4U, and recommends that `further examination' of these officials should take place,'' SAFA said.
SAFA had already acknowledged that it became suspicious of the match officials taking charge of some of its pre-World Cup friendlies and decided to replace Chaibou at short notice as referee for South Africa's final warm-up game, a 1-0 win over Denmark on June 5, 2010.
Singaporean Perumal is now under house arrest in Hungary having been jailed in Finland for fixing games there. Match-fixing scandals have also hit Turkey, Italy, South Korea and South Africa's neighbor, Zimbabwe, among others.
Zimbabwe's national association recently banned players, coaches and its former chief executive for life for involvement in fixing games for Perumal's betting syndicates on national team tours to Asia as far back as 2009.