22 January 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Asiagate Not Finalised'. . . World Football Governing Body Still Looking At ZIFA Match-Fixing Report

FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke has revealed that their legal department is still studying the Asiagate report and has requested for more information from Zifa before deciding on whether or not they can endorse the sanctions meted out to scores of individuals.

Valcke, who is in South Africa for the African Cup of Nations finals, described Asiagate as "a very difficult case that has also opened the eyes of the Fifa legal department."

The Fifa head of secretariat officiated at the handover of funds to the first beneficiaries of the US$50 million 2010 World Cup Legacy Trust.

He also had a roundtable with media representatives from around the continent during which he fielded a number of questions pertaining to the game, especially in Africa.

It was at that indaba in Johannesburg that Valcke also spoke about Asiagate.

Valcke said their legal department has since requested for more information from Zifa before coming up with their position on the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.

"The legal department is still waiting for additional documents to move on and the case is still open and still going on," Valcke said.

"It was a very difficult case, it was the first case of such a scale, such a magnitude and it opened our eyes, gave our legal department something to adapt our statutes and regulations so that we have the tools to fight match-fixing.

"We are still waiting for additional information, but the case is not finalised."

Asked to offer his opinion on the hefty bans meted out by Zifa, Valcke said although he had his views, the final Fifa decision on the matter would rest with their legal department.

"My feeling is that when there is a ban, that ban should be extended to have a worldwide effect, but that is not for me to decide, it is the legal committee," said Valcke.

"In my position, I would never intervene or interfere with a decision made by our legal committee.

"But my feeling is that if you do something wrong at the level of match-fixing or manipulation, your ban should be extended."

Valcke noted that match-fixing had started a long time ago and affected all confederations that are affiliated to Fifa, but also acknowledged that match-fixing, which he reckoned had recently become more of match manipulation, had become a tough battle to overcome.

"We don't talk much about match-fixing by the way because match-fixing is a manipulation of the result of the game," said Valcke.

"It is now more about betting, they are betting on everything, the first yellow card, the first red card, the first penalty . . . so you can manipulate the game, you don't fix the game . . . it doesn't mean that in the end you don't have a result".

The betting and manipulation of matches, Valcke said, had become the "ugly face of our beautiful game and has reached the levels of international companies in the revenue they generate.

"They are making US$1 billion a year.

"Match manipulation is in all confederations, not just Africa or Asia. It is a cancer and it eats all populations, eats all football wherever football is played".

Valcke, however, said they had observed that match-fixers tended to target more the lower leagues and the amateur game.

"I am less afraid about the high-level football, the high-level competitions like World Cup, Champions League, the Euro, and African Nations Cup," said Valcke.

"It is more about the lower leagues, the amateur football, but it is there and all confederations are aware of and all confederations will fight with Fifa and Interpol.

"What is important is that we cannot succeed on our own, we are not police, we are not investigators, we have to be supported by the police departments and it must be part of the general laws of a country.

"In many, many countries there is not a common approach on how to sanction people who are acting in this business of match-fixing and match manipulation, so we are working together sports authorities, justice departments, police because it is not just football but all sports are subject to manipulation".

Fifa, Valcke said, were still awaiting a final report on the match-fixing allegations that rocked the South African Football Association late last year.

The allegations also led to the suspensions of Safa president Kirsten Nematandani and a number of officials in the association.

"We sent a report to Safa and we are waiting for them to come back to us with a final report and based on what they will present Fifa with, our Ethics committee and legal committee can always take additional sanctions against people who would have done something that goes against the interests of football.

"It will not take months but it will take years to fight match manipulation. It started a long time ago but it reached a peak in the last three to five years.

"It is a very well organised crime system and it is very well organised by clever people who are very, very strong in the system and again it will need all our energies and a long time to fight it," Valcke said.

Zifa president Cuthbert Dube has also noted that it will take a long time and resources to fight match-fixing, but believes his leadership's actions in the last two years have done enough to lay the platform for a "cleaner and healthier game in Zimbabwe".

Dube now wants the domestic game to this year shift its attention to more developmental issues and to revive the Warriors' brand.

Zifa and the affected players and officials such as Method Mwanjali, Thomas Sweswe and Sunday Chidzambwa, who are based in South Africa, will however, have to wait a little longer before they know of the decision that will come from the Fifa legal department.

This is because only those coaches and players plying their trade on the domestic front have so far borne the brunt of the Asiagate bans while those playing in South Africa and other parts of the world can only be affected should Fifa decide to endorse the sanctions and ensure they take a worldwide effect.

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