Zim soccer sinks amid scandal

2010-10-31 14:01

Zimbabwe’s national football team has lurched into a ­match-fixing crisis.

A report by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) released last week exposes the country’s involvement in match-fixing incidents, said to be linked to Asian betting syndicates.

It also alleges corrupt dealings in an intricate web of dirty money paid to high-profile players, referees, soccer officials and journalists over the past three years.

Zifa’s former chief executive ­officer, Henrietta Rushwaya, who was also linked to the scam and has been suspended since July pending an investigation, was fired this week for “conduct inconsistent with her duties, mismanagement and insubordination”, according to Zifa’s lawyer, Ralph Maganga.

The national team’s unauthorised trip to Thailand and Malaysia in December last?year?raised suspicions of questionable dealings by Zifa ­officials,?led?by?Jonathan?­Musavengana, as the trip had not been given the green light by either Zifa or the Sports and Recreation Commission.

Zimbabwe played Thailand and lost 3-0, then won 3-0 against ­Malaysian outfit Selangor and lost 6-0 to Syria.

Soccer officials say the losses were responsible for the national team’s slump in the Fifa international rankings to 118th place.

Subsequently, a Zifa inquiry led by its vice-president, Ndumiso Gumede, was launched in July this year to investigate the controversial Asian trip and it has obtained damning testimony from players and team staff of events in Malaysia; of Asian betting syndicate members having direct access to players’ rooms and sitting on the team’s technical bench and of sums of $500 (about R3 500) and $1 500 paid to players to lose matches.

“I have been in football for more than 30 years and I have never come across something like this, where a national team just travels across the world to throw away matches and no one raises a finger ... we will not rest until we get to the bottom of this to clean up our football and the image of the ­country,” said Gumede.

In a sworn statement detailing their 6-0 loss to Syria, Joey Antipas, who travelled to Asia as the head coach, revealed that a syndicate member paid players $500 in advance to play in the match against Syria, and after the match players received $1 000 each.

“My hands received dirty money due to being forced into these games by Jonathan Musavengana”, said Antipas.

Investigations by the Ndumiso Gumede-led inquiry suggest that the same Asian betting syndicates linked to Zimbabwe operated with the Zebras, Botswana’s national football team.

In March the Botswana Football Association fired its chief executive officer, Tosh Kgotlele, amid ­investigations of match-fixing in connection with a 4-1 loss to China.

An uncertain future looms for the bulk of Zimbabwe’s national team players who have been implicated in the match-fixing scam and who play for clubs in South Africa, for their involvement in “passive corruption” according to Fifa regulations.

The players who are found guilty might face lifetime bans from the sport.

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