6 February 2019

Kenya: Match-Fixing Not New in Football, Cartels Wiser Now

As revelations continue on the troubling issue of match-fixing in Kenya, local sports stakeholders now admit that the vice is fast infiltrating local football circles and they point to four key pillars that help actualise the vice.

International player transfers, routine referee hospitality, rogue bookmakers and a growing football space fattened by television rights and sponsorship deals have been identified as the key tenets of match-fixing.

These four are then exploited and given life by a handful of well-connected international match-fixing cartels that are present at every step of the process.

Football administrators whose views the Nation sought yesterday said that a lot of people participating in the game are involved in match-fixing, except for the fans who are being hoodwinked by the fixers and pliable players.

Mr Austin Oduor, rated as the best Harambee Stars captain ever, told the Nation that match-fixing is an age-old disease, but that currently the stakes have increased exponentially.

"Match-fixing is not a joke. In our days, for example, matches played against north African teams would almost always end in a loss no matter how well we played. As players, we didn't talk about it much, but it was not a secret," he said.

He added: "So even in our days, matches were being fixed, but not by using players. Referees were the main culprits. It was difficult to use players because most of us were driven by passion and not money. Most players during our time had other sources of income."

It has now emerged that match-fixing rackets have moved away from the traditional method of bribing referees and opted to use players.

The cartels start by identifying players from around the world and promising them huge sums of money in exchange for their help in determining the outcome of certain matches.

They then test the players' courage and loyalty at the national-team level before ultimately planting them in various leagues around the world to help them fix club games.

Mr Lordvick Aduda, a former chief executive officer at Football Kenya Federation and currently chief executive of Gor Mahia, said match-fixing is rampant not only in Kenya but also in the international arena.

"Some matches I have attended have left me with no doubt that match-fixing is alive and well," he said.

Former Football Kenya Federation chairman Sam Nyamweya has equated the vice to national security threats like terrorism and implicated foreign gambling firms.

"Notice that most of these betting companies are not local. They are international, profit-making enterprises. For them to stay in business, the number of people losing bets must be more than those winning them. Unfortunately, some of these companies have created a criminal football underworld to aid their ambition," he said.

These reflections came a day after the Nation reported that world football governing body Fifa has launched investigations into serious match-fixing allegations against a Harambee Stars player, George Owino, who is said to have been paid millions of shillings to throw away the Kenya national team's matches between 2009 and 2011.

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