Match-fixing scam: Safa boss suspended

18 December 2012 - 02:00 By RAMATSIYI MOHOLOA
Kirsten Nematandani says country will have its say
Kirsten Nematandani says country will have its say
Image: Sunday World

SOUTH Africa soccer boss Kirsten Nematandani was yesterday forced out of his office - after refusing to leave voluntarily - over a match-fixing scandal involving Bafana Bafana.

Nematandani, president of the SA Football Association, and four other senior members of Safa, were suspended as the local game was plunged into the worst crisis in its history - only a month from the Africa Cup of Nations, to be played in South Africa next month.

At the centre of the crisis is a match-fixing scandal that involved Bafana shortly before the Fifa 2010 World Cup. According to a report by world football governing body Fifa, it appears that Safa was duped by a crime syndicate, Football 4U, headed by convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.

The scam will now be the subject of an inquiry headed by a judge. Until it is completed, Nematandani will be suspended, along with new Safa CEO Dennis Mumble, the Safa head of national teams Lindile "Ace" Kika, referees boss Adeel Carelse and Bafana manager Barney Kujane.

Safa, however, insisted that none of the five was implicated in wrongdoing.

"These suspensions were necessary for good governance and to allow this matter to be thoroughly and properly investigated," said outgoing chief executive Robin Petersen, who was due to hand over to Mumble next month. Pinky Lehoko will act in his place.

Acting Safa president Mwelo Nonkonyana said: "This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in match-fixing."

He said a letter in the report suggested that Nematandani met Perumal and gave him the go-ahead for the now-tainted matches.

"The president has been asked to give evidence at the inquiry like all the other people mentioned," said Nonkonyana.

The 500-page report follows a probe by Fifa's security department of Bafana's matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up the 2010 World Cup.

Perumal offered to arrange, and pay for, the friendlies, and to provide referees. The referees fixed the matches, according to the Fifa report, making dubious decisions on offsides and penalties.

Safa's emergency committee twice asked Nematandani to step down after his name had been mentioned in the Fifa report. When he refused, Safa suspended him, a source said.

Nematandani yesterday said he would not comment until he had been officially informed by Safa in writing. He was asked to recuse himself from the emergency committee meeting last Friday when the Fifa report was first discussed.

Nonkonyana said the report would be handed to the police and the Hawks, at Fifa's suggestion. He said the report did not implicate any Bafana players.

"The allegations are damaging. It's a serious matter, hence we have decided that we should get to the bottom of it with a tribunal that is credible," said Nonkonyana.

Leslie Sedibe, who was Safa CEO at the time, said he would study the Fifa report and would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

"The important thing is for everyone that is implicated to cooperate so there can be closure to this issue," said Sedibe.

Sedibe said he had "nothing to do with this Perumal guy", as alleged by Kika at the time.

Kujane said: "I have no comment to make except that I will fully cooperate with Safa."

Asked if the Fifa report would affect the Nations Cup, Nonkonyana said: "Not at all. The local organising committee is a separate entity from Safa. Our preparations are well on track to host a successful tournament."

Safa's executive committee will meet on Saturday to discuss the Fifa report and the inquiry.

The Department of Sports and Recreation did not respond to requests for comment. - Additional reporting by Mazola Molefe