South African Football Association president suspended amid match-fixing claims
Kirsten Nematandani and four officials named in a FIFA report
The results of four South Africa friendlies ahead of 2010 World Cup pre-arranged
Vice president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana set to take interim charge of the body
The president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) has been suspended as part of an investigation into match-fixing ahead of the country hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
Kirsten Nematandani and four other SAFA officials were suspended as an act of “good governence” following a report by football’s global governing body FIFA, which adjudged four friendly matches ahead of Africa’s first World Cup had been fixed.
According to the FIFA report, the results of South Africa’s matches with Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala were prearranged for the benefit of convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his Football 4U organization.
Nematandani declined to comment when contacted by CNN.
Last year, Perumal was imprisoned in Finland after a court ruled that he had arranged the outcomes of at least seven league matches from 2008 onwards.
The Singaporean was also heavily implicated in the match-fixing scandal that affected South Africa’s neighbors Zimbabwe between 2007-2009, a process which has had repercussions for nearly 100 footballers while two former national coaches have been banned.
The timing of FIFA’s report into match-fixing involving the team known as Bafana Bafana comes at a bad time for South Africa, as it is just one month away from hosting the continent’s showpiece football event – the Africa Cup of Nations.
The suspensions were announced by a SAFA emergency committee on Monday, ahead of an enquiry, with vice president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana set to take interim charge of the governing body.
“The emergency committee considered and accepted the report as received,” read an SAFA statement. “The emergency committee felt that the president would have to appear before the commission of enquiry to explain his role in the matter.
“Having considered the implications of this for SAFA, the committee asked the president to take a voluntary leave of absence from his position.
“All members of staff mentioned in the report who will need to give evidence at the commission are likewise put on special administrative leave pending the finalization of the enquiry, or pending receiving a clearance from the commission.
“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.
“The members of staff so affected are: Dennis Mumble, Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane.”
The SAFA was unavailable to clarify what the FIFA report might mean for South African football or what action they may take after the inquiry.
The organization said last week it wanted to “bring this unfortunate matter to a just and final conclusion.” Speaking as president – before his suspension – Nematandani said: “Having cooperated with FIFA during their investigation, we are happy that this matter is coming to its conclusion and our commitment to zero tolerance to corruption is well documented.
“SAFA remains totally committed to working with FIFA to wipe out the scourge of corruption that is impacting on football globally.”
Mumble is SAFA’s new chief executive officer.
Interim president Nonkonyama stressed how all parties involved should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
“This is a difficult situation for the Association, and for those who have been named in the report. We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise.
“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.”
In a statement released last week, South African football’s ruling body acknowledged that “Perumal and Football 4U managed to infiltrate SAFA prior to the World Cup, with an offer to assist with referee development.
“The offer included providing FIFA-accredited referees at their cost for the friendly matches prior to the FIFA 2010 World Cup.”
One of these games – when South Africa beat Guatemala 5-0 in May 2010 – featured the award of three penalties.
A month later the 2010 World Cup was the first to be staged on the continent of Africa. Hosts South Africa were eliminated in the group stages, but, to the delight of African football fans, Ghana enjoyed a run to the quarterfinal.
The “Black Stars’” campaign was eventually ended by a penalty shootout defeat to Uruguay. Spain went onto to be crowned world champions for the first time, beating Netherlands 1-0 in the final after extra-time.