Ugly soccer scandal

2014-05-04 15:00

The simmering international match-fixing furore has reached a new twist, with two South African sport bigwigs adding their voices to have the practice nipped in the bud.

SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam and Danny Jordaan from the SA Football Association (Safa) have called on Fifa and the International Olympic Committee to intensify their fight against match-fixing.

This comes in the wake of startling revelations by convicted Singaporean fraudster Wilson Raj Perumal, who claims to have “fixed” Nigeria’s 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifying matches as well as others at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In the online book titled Kelong Kings, co-authored by Perumal and Italian journalists Allessandro Righi and Emanuele Piano, the 48-year-old fraudster also claims to have tampered with matches as far back as the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Sam, who said he hadn’t seen the book yet, said: “The Olympic movement must take these allegations seriously. We need to stop, take stock, investigate this and get to the bottom of it. It is very disturbing if people can go around bribing individuals and influencing results. This will kill sport if it’s not dealt with thoroughly.”

Jordaan said: “The integrity of sport and the outcome are central to the future of the game. Fifa and the IOC must attend to these matters.”

Among Perumal’s claims is that he attempted to bribe Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos at the Atlanta Games by giving him $300?000 in cash but the player refused, left the hotel room and called security. Perumal was 30 years old then.

When reports about the Super Eagles’ links to Perumal first surfaced early in the week, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) dismissed them as “hogwash” and “a figment of the imagination of a convicted felon”.

But by the end of the week, it received confirmation from Fifa that an investigation into the matter had been opened.

The NFF said they were cooperating with the investigation. In the book, Perumal reveals how he met with an NFF official to try and fix games so the country would top their 2010 Fifa World Cup qualifying group.

Nigeria qualified for the tournament ahead of Tunisia, Mozambique and Kenya.

The fraudster says he had an agreement with the federation that he would organise friendly matches for the national team and also get a percentage of the money the country was to receive from Fifa for qualifying.

All countries who qualified for the event received an $8?million bonus from Fifa.

A report by Fifa in 2012 sent shockwaves through the South African soccer fraternity after revealing that Bafana Bafana’s 2010 Fifa World Cup preparatory matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala had been fixed.

These allegations are also contained in the book.

The report implicated some Safa members and employees. The matter is under investigation by former US district attorney Michael Garcia, who chairs the Fifa ethics committee.

The new revelations will add to what is already on Garcia’s ever-piling plate. He is also dealing with claims of bribery around the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia, the cost of which was last week reported to have escalated to more than R102?million.

Fifa secretary-general Jérôme Valcke has said he wanted the investigation to be concluded before the 2014 Fifa World Cup begins on June 12.

Garcia was to interview the 13 remaining Fifa executive committee members of the 22 who voted for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as well as president Sepp Blatter this week.

Jordaan added that Safa was arranging a workshop for its national executive committee members in a bid to combat match-fixing. “The seminar will look into ways of strengthening the integrity of sport in the country and ensure that results are not tampered with.

“People go to the stadium with a belief that the outcome will be determined right in front of their eyes. You can’t have a match in South Africa whose result is determined somewhere in Singapore.”

Fifa referred City Press’ enquiries to Garcia’s Chicago Kirkland & Ellis LLP office. “The ethics committee is independent. You must contact Michael Garcia’s office directly,” the world football governing body said.

In response to detailed questions, the law firm’s director of communications/public relations Kate Slaasted, wrote: “Thank you for your enquiry. We have no updates to share at this time.”

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