South African FA President suspended for match-fixing
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
December 18 - Two years after staging the World Cup and just weeks before hosting January's African Cup of Nations, South African football has been plunged into crisis after the President of the country's national federation, Kirsten Nematandani (pictured), was suspended along with four others in a new match-fixing scandal.
In what can only be described as a massive embarrassment, the five – who also include new South African Football Association (SAFA) chief executive officer Dennis Mumble - were relieved of their duties after FIFA found "compelling evidence" that friendly internationals were fixed by Far East betting syndicates.
The suspension follows the handing over to SAFA of a 500-page FIFA report that highlighted the involvement of the five South African officials.
The investigation found four Bafana Bafana matches played in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup finals were fixed.
The SAFA will immediately establish a Commission of Enquiry with the five suspected culprits put on special administrative leave until the probe is complete.
SAFA vice-president chief Mwelo Nonkonyana has been asked to act as President in the interim.
Nematandani had last month stood unsuccessfully for the vice-president of South Africa Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
The FIFA investigation discovered the involvement of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organisation.
Perumal is under house arrest in Hungary after being handed a two-year jail term for fixing matches in Finland in July 2011.
He was also reportedly involved in Zimbabwe's notorious Asia-gate scandal in which 98 players were given varying bans from the game earlier this year.
Perumal apparently infiltrated South Africa's World Cup warmup games against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala.
"These suspensions were necessary for good governance and for allowing this matter to be thoroughly and properly investigated," said outgoing SAFA chief executive Robin Petersen, who was due to hand over to Mumble next month.
A statement on the SAFA website said the organisation "accepted FIFA's report as received" and added that "a commission of enquiry will be set up, under the leadership of a retired judge, to fully investigate the matter and the members cited in the report".
"This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in match-fixing.
"It is again simply for good governance that this measure is being implemented," SAFA explained in a press release.
"SAFA apologised to FIFA and undertook to take the urgent and serious actions to deal with the matter."
Nonkonyana said it was important those suspended remained innocent until proven guilty.
"We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise," he said.
"We need to allow the investigation to take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be separated from those who are not."
South Africa's 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 victory over Colombia in May 2010 - two weeks before the World Cup kicked off - have long been under suspicion.
Nigerien referee Chaibou Ibrahim awarded three penalties for hand-ball in the Guatemala game and FIFA has been trying to question him for more than a year.
All three goals in the match against Colombia, refereed by a Kenyan official, came from penalties.
South Africa went into the World Cup on a 12-match unbeaten streak which boosted expectations.
But a draw with Mexico followed by defeat to Uruguay, after upsetting France, meant they became the first hosts to be knocked out in the opening round.
The new scandal will come as a huge blow to the South African public who adore their sport in a country that has made great strides since the dark days of apartheid South Africa but has now been seriously tarnished just when they are about to host Africa's most prestigious regional competition.