The Herald (Harare)

1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Knives Out for Mushekwi

A SHADOWY organisation that claims to stand for Fair Play in African football has made sensational allegations that Zimbabwe international striker, Nyasha Mushekwi, bribed his way out of a potential

life ban in the Asiagate match-fixing saga.

FairFootballAfrica, which says it's a lobby against match-fixing and corruption in African football, has targeted Mushekwi in an aggressive smear campaign aimed at destroying the striker's hopes for a possible dance with European football.

The organisation apparently doesn't have an official website, or online contact details and uses a Yahoo public e-mail address, has claimed that it has contacted several European clubs to block the possible transfer of Mushekwi until Fifa takes an official position on the Asiagate match-fixing saga.

It has also been on an aggressive media campaign, across Southern Africa, taking their case to a number of newsrooms.

Zifa will certainly find claims by FairFootballAfrica, that people could bribe their way out of the Asiagate scandal, to be repulsive in as much as the same organisation is trying to support the association in its stance against corruption in football.

Ironically, while FairFootballAfrica wants Mushekwi frozen from international transfers for, at least a year, Zifa secretary-general, Jonathan Mashingaidze, announced that the striker is set to be honoured by the association for the stance he took, during the controversial matches under review, to reject the advances of match-fixers.

Zimbabwe international goalkeeper, Energy Murambadoro, who was cleared from the Asiagate scandal, is the other player that Mashingaidze said would be honoured.

Mushekwi, who is currently back home in Zimbabwe with his Super Diski club, Mamelodi Sundowns, scored twice when the Brazilians defeated Highlanders 2-0 at Barbourfields in the opening match of their mid-season break tour.

The big striker has been linked with a move to England to join either Fulham or West Ham and last year he even passed a medical at Germany Bundesliga side, Greuther Furth, before the move broke down because of disagreements over the transfer fee.

The Zifa board slapped Mushekwi with a wholly suspended one-year ban from football, following investigations held into the Asiagate scandal by the Justice Ebrahim Commission, leaving the Mamelodi Sundowns free to continue plying his trade.

Even if Zifa had banned Mushekwi for a year, the suspension would only take effect in the event Fifa endorsed that ban provided the local association submitted documentary evidence to show that the case passed through all its disciplinary and appeals' committee channels.

Fifa secretary-general, Jerome Valcke, last month described Asiagate as a very difficult case and said their legal experts were still perusing the relevant documents, and have requested for more information from Zifa, before the world football governing body can take an official position.

Mushekwi is unlikely to be affected, by whatever Fifa does, because he has virtually been freed by Zifa.

FairFootballAfrica's Xavier Fischer, who claims to be writing from Brussels, Belgium, appears to have targeted Mushekwi and his club Mamelodi Sundowns in a high-stakes game.

"Our position is that anyone involved in match-fixing, should immediately be banned for the sake of cleaning football," Fischer said in his statement sent by emails to various newsrooms. Zimbabwe's case is a first of it's kind because some players, namely one Nyasha Mushekwi, are alleged to have bribed their way out of life bans.

"In the case of Mushekwi, we have written to some European clubs that might want to sign him against their actions, for the sake of integrity and professionalism and the feedback is encouraging.

"The player, we argue, must remain at his South African club Sundowns, which has curiously decided to renew the contract of another match-fixing offender, Method Mwanjali, their former captain.

"This sends out the wrong signal to would be offenders, since they can always be exonerated for business reasons, of which football is a billion dollar business itself.

"We are also pursuing other cases in South Africa and Nigeria following football mismanagement reports about the respective countries football associations."

Fischer said his organisation had targeted the banning of the transfer of all Zimbabwean players fingered in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.

"We are delighted to inform you that our organisation, FairFootBallAfrica, recently formed to lobby against soccer match-fixing and corruption involving players and administrators has been successful in alerting various football stakeholders, including Fifa and European leagues/clubs about the need to ban the signing of corrupt soccer players from Zimbabwe involved in the shameful Asiagate scandal into European clubs for at least one year," said Fischer.

He said they wanted that freeze to be maintained "until Fifa resolves the issue, which it has noted is still unfinished business although most of the culprits plying their trade in South Africa are still turning out for their clubs in a clear snub of Zifa sanctions.

"FairFootBallAfrica was formed in February 2011 and has an outlet in Egypt and representation in Europe too. It brings together soccer agents, former players, coaches and administrators with the sole objective of preserving discipline in the sport."

Sundowns have stood by both Mushekwi and Mwanjali, whose contract is set to be extended after it expires at the end of this season, despite the life-ban hanging over his head. "As a club we have made a decision, we are quite confident with what the players told us about match-fixing and we have to take their word," Sundowns' director of technical, Trott Moloto, told The Herald last month.

"There has to be that trust between a club and the players. The scandal, it happened, but doesn't mean anything. People have to be found guilty and no one from Fifa came to us or pointed a finger."

The Pretoria club also issued a detailed statement, when Zifa announced they had banned Mwanjali for life, in October last year.

"Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club have noted reports that the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has imposed a life ban on central defender Method Mwanjali, following the conclusion of their investigation into match-fixing allegations," the statement read.

"Sundowns have not received any official communication in this regard from the Premier Soccer League (PSL), and will await such communication.

"However, the club has had discussions with the player and Mwanjali maintains that he is innocent and will exercise all the rights he is entitled to in terms of the rules.

"The player says he is being used as a scapegoat in the affairs of Zifa and strongly denied that he was ever involved in any match-fixing in his entire life.

"Mamelodi Sundowns will provide the player with all the necessary support in his bid to clear his name."

While FairFootballAfrica seems to have taken a deep interest in trying to freese Mushekwi out of international football transfers, the football world has welcomed Juventus coach, Antonio Conte, back from a four-month ban, for match-fixing, by the Italian Football Federation that had been extended worldwide by Fifa.

Conte led Juventus to the Italian championship, in the 2011/2012 season, without losing a match in Serie A, but was banned last season for malpractice, during his time as coach of Serie B side Siena, when he allegedly kept forward, Salvatore Mastronunzio, out of the team because he refused to be part of a match-fixing ring.

Conte was found guilty of also failing to report match-fixing in a match between Siena and Albinoleffe.

"My view hasn't changed. Antonio Conte is an innocent man and completely innocent of what he has been accused of," Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said after Fifa confirmed and extended the ban worldwide.

"The confirmation of the ban is unfair and should make people pause for reflection over the entire football system."

AC Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, is still active in the game after having served a one-year ban for match-fixing.

Former German goalkeeper, Luitz Pfannestiel, who served a year's jail in Singapore after being found guilty of match-fixing, is at the 2012 Nations Cup in South Africa working as a scout for Bundesliga sides, including TSG Hoffenheim, who signed Zimbabwe forward Knowledge Musona.

Three months have passed since Zifa asked Fifa to endorse their suspensions and extend them worldwide have already asked Zifa to provide a record of the transcript of proceedings of the cases at the primary disciplinary committee hearing stage.

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