23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Who Cast the FIFA Vote?

THE controversy surrounding the votes from Zimbabwe for the 2012 Ballon d'Or deepened yesterday amid shocking revelations that some names of the local voting panelists could have been forged onto the official ballot papers that were sent to Fifa.

The embarrassing case has already triggered an internal investigation within Zifa with the association's vice-president, Ndumiso Gumede, saying those responsible for this shameless act will have to be punished accordingly.

The Ballon d'Or is an international award, whose integrity is protected by Fifa, who ensure that the right people - national team coaches, national team captains or vice-captains and selected journalists -- have to cast votes.

Revelations that some names could probably have been forged, onto the ballot papers from Zimbabwe to dupe Fifa in terms of those who voted, is certainly an embarrassment that could see heads rolling at Zifa.

Fifa use the voting system to harness data that will help them establish the trend of voting by coaches, players and journalists across the globe and any attempts to dupe the system is an insult to the efforts that the world football governing body will be making.

The Herald is now in possession of all the official ballot papers for the 2012 Ballon d'Or that came from Zimbabwe and were sent to Fifa on November 15, 2011, the deadline day for the voting exercise.

The official ballot papers clearly show that Rahman Gumbo, who was the Warriors' coach by the time the votes were cast and was supposed to have voted for the Player and Coach of the Year awards, DID not take part in the process. Rahman has maintained that while his name appeared on the Fifa list, as having voted in the process, he didn't cast his vote.

Zifa technical director, Nelson Matongorere's name appears on the official ballot papers, but the former coach, who also denies casting a vote during the process, appeared to have indicated that he wasn't the Warriors' coach.

The official ballot papers show that where Matongorere is said to have cast his vote, on the space reserved for the national coach, an indication was made that the person who was voting wasn't the Warriors' coach but someone else.

The 'coach' is crossed, on the ballot paper, and the initials TD, as if to indicate Technical Director, are inserted, followed by the name 'Nelson Matongorere'.

The person who voted as Matongorere, since the Zifa official denies casting his vote, chose Andreas Iniesta for the 2012 Fifa Ballon d'Or, with Lionel Messi and Robin van Persie in second and third places.

For the Coach of the Year, he or she chose Vicente del Bosque, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

Interestingly, Esrom Nyandoro, the Warriors' vice-captain, is sucked into the drama as his name appears on the official ballot papers as having voted during the 2012 Ballon d'Or voting process.

While a vice-captain of a national team can vote, it's unlikely that Nyandoro did because not only was he not in this country when Zifa battled to beat the deadline, but a closer look at the ballot shows that the person who voted even spells the first name of the Mamelodi Sundowns' man wrongly.

On both ballots, for the Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, Esrom's first name is spelt as Ersom and there is even a signature to go with it to confirm that he voted.

However, the handwriting on all the ballot papers that came from Zimbabwe is strikingly similar, especially the way the person constructed the "a" letter, and all seemed to have been done by the same pen.

Wile Fifa said the form should be completed in capital letters, the person who signed on behalf of Matongorere used both upper and lower cases and so did the one who signed on behalf of Nyandoro.

Until now, Nyandoro's name had not featured in this drama with Matongorere being accused of having masqueraded as the Warriors' captain, in the voting process, a charge that he denied.

Zifa chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, has publicly maintained that he was out of office when the ballot papers came from Fifa and were then signed and returned to the world football governing body in Zurich.

But all the four ballot papers from Zimbabwe show that they were authorised by Mashingaidze, whose signature appears on all papers, as it is a mandatory requirement that either the chief executive (secretary-general) or the president of the association have to authorise the votes. Mashingaidze's signature is followed by a confirmation, of the date he signed the papers, on November 15, 2011, and an official Zifa date stamp, of the same day, which made everything authoritative enabling the votes to be included for the 2012 Ballon d'Or.

If Mashingaidze is right to publicly say that he wasn't in office when the voting process was done, does it mean that someone then forged his signature to give the ballot papers the authoritative seal that was needed for them to become official documents at Fifa?

Who could be that person, if that is true, who expertly copied Mashingaidze's signature on all four ballot papers without making a mistake?

Or was the signature of Nyandoro and his name also forged? These are the big issues that will confront Zifa this morning and, given that the association have adopted a zero tolerance on malpractice, this could be an interesting case.

Mighty Warriors' coach, Rosemary Mugadza, confirmed to The Herald that she took part in the voting process after receiving a call on deadline day.

"Yes, I voted and, indeed, filled in those ballot papers for Zimbabwe. I was phoned to come to Zifa for that and I took with me my captain, (Onai Chingawo), for the same task and why is there noise about this anyway?

"Wasn't it a straight forward case?" Mugadza said.

Mugadza will probably see that there are startling similarities, in the handwriting that cast the votes, leading to suspicion of foul play to defeat the Fifa process.

Zifa have launched an investigation after the case was tabled at a board meeting last week and, until now, all eyes had been pointed on Matongorere.

Mashingaidze told The Chronicle that, because of the sensitivity of the case, the names of the four members of the investigating committee will remain a secret until they complete their exercise.

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