16 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Thirteen Footballers Face Life Bans for 'Asiagate' Match Fixing

Photo: Confederation of African Football.
Zimbabwe senior soccer team

A judicial inquiry investigating match fixing allegations against Zimbabwean soccer players has recommended that 13 players and officials be banned for life from the sport.

The inquiry was led by retired High Court Judge Justice Ahmed Ebrahim who released the findings of the report in Harare on Tuesday. He also recommended 10-year bans for seven other players, five-year bans for 37 and two-year bans for the remaining 25.

Justice Ebrahim said: 'Today (Tuesday) will go down as a sad, depressing day in the annals of history of the game in Zimbabwe.' He added that the investigation, 'may well only be the proverbial tip of the iceberg.'

The players, including coaching staff and former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya (named as the mastermind), were accused of accepting money from a betting syndicate to throw matches in Asia.

The inquiry however did not reveal the names of the players. FIFA, the governing body for world football, has indicated that it will uphold any bans issued by ZIFA and turn them into global bans.

Rushwaya still has pending corruption and fraud charges after first appearing in court February. The charges are related to the match fixing allegations, known as 'Asiagate.'

The damning report accuses players, including leading members of the national team, of having taken bribes to throw friendly matches between 2007 and 2009. In Malaysia the Warriors lost to Jordan 2-0, to Thailand 3-0 and to Syria 6-0, during tours arranged by Rushwaya.

ZIFA chairman Cuthbert Dube has long campaigned for stiff sentences against the offending players but believes that there is more work to be done.

'We will not step down until we clean up football. There is match-fixing in the premier league and in division one and we are not pleased with the standard of our referees,' Dube told the Associated Press in Harare.

Former ZBC football commentator and Radio DJ, Ezra 'Tshisa' Sibanda welcomed the findings and recommendations, saying it will send out a very strong warning to would be cheaters.

'This is long overdue, it sends out a strong signal to our players in Zimbabwe and the region that match fixing will not be tolerated.

'This had become a cancer in our sport and has largely contributed to the poor standards of football displayed in the last few years. Our football had gone to the dogs and what we need now is for the authorities to look at the sport from top to down with the intention of getting rid of all bad apples,' Sibanda said.

He also took a swipe at ZIFA for the way the national team lost the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier to Angola on Sunday. The Warriors lost 2-0 to Angola in Luanda, in a match they needed to draw to qualify.

'As I said before, the circus surrounding the trip was a disaster. For ZIFA to agree to fly 197 people, crammed together with players, in a plane chartered by Mbada Diamonds was suicidal.

'Accompanying 30 players and 8 coaching staff were 32 people from Mbada Diamonds the sponsors, 14 journalists, 12 traditional dancers, 20 Mzansi 2012 committee members, 16 representatives of premiership clubs, a number of nominated supporters, plus ZIFA officials, to make a total of 197 passengers.

'Were all these people necessary to be flown to Angola when the match was live on ZBC or it was a simple way of spending the diamond money,' fumed Sibanda.

Copyright © 2012 SW Radio Africa. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.