The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) yesterday issued a stern warning to match officials and Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs that will be found guilty in an ongoing probe by the association on allegations of match-fixing.
There has been a deluge of allegations in the local league of match-fixing and poor officiating by local referees.
The allegations led Zifa to hire foreign coaches to handle the Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final matches last weekend, a move heavily criticised by local referees association who even issued threats to boycott officiating in league matches.
However, Zifa president Cuthbert Dube yesterday said they will descend heavily on anyone found guilty. He said the perpetrators will face severe sentences and even life bans, depending on the gravity of the offence.
Dube — speaking on an occasion to thank Mbada Diamonds Holdings for sponsoring a knock-out competition this year — warned referees threatening official boycotts that they would face an automatic sacking.
“We have tasked the Zifa vice-president Ndumiso Gumede to chair the referees committee as well as overseeing a thorough probe into the conduct of some of match officials.
The probe will unravel the acts of misconduct perpetrated by some of our officials and appropriate sanctions shall be visited upon such officials. Those found guilty shall regret the day they accepted bribes from corrupt club officials. Club officials found guilty of inducing match officials shall also face the music.
Clubs which may have profited from such shenanigans risk being stripped of their membership and in extreme cases, shall be excluded from taking part in association football,” said Dube.
Mbada Diamonds chief administration officer Patience Khumalo said: “Our sponsorship of the Mbada Diamonds Cup should be viewed as the infant steps we are taking to position the Zimbabwean football brand where it belongs.
Mbada Diamonds challenges other organisations to play a pivotal role to promote soccer. This will ease the woes that Zifa and PSL currently have to correctly position the Zimbabwean football brand.
There is still much to be done to develop our beautiful game of soccer. Therefore if you are Zimbabwean and proud to be associated as such, you should show it by lifting the country’s flag through a positive contribution to the cause.”
Meanwhile, Victor Hlungwane, the South African referee who handled the Dynamos-FC Platinum Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final at Barbourfields Stadium last week faces a three week suspension for “erratic performances”.
He was due for a hearing yesterday, according to South African publication Sowetan.
Hlungwane seemed to have erred when he awarded Orlando Pirates a penalty in their league clash against Jomo Cosmos in Port Elizabeth.
Rudolph Bester of Pirates seemed to have tricked Hlungwane into believing he was tackled by Lehlohonolo Nonyane of Ezenkosi.
Instead of booking Bester for simulation, the referee awarded Pirates a penalty that was scored, earning the Buccaneers a share of the spoils. Television replays showed Nonyane did not make any contact with Bester.
Hlungwani was scheduled to appear before a review committee yesterday as part of Safa’s concerted effort to crack the whip on bad refereeing that has characterised the Absa Premiership this season.
Referees Lebohang Daniels, Robert Smith, Harry Lekitlane and Robert Sithole have already been suspended for their poor handling of matches.
In the Mbada match, Hlungwane showed Platinum defender Daniel Vheremu a red card before realising his error and reversing the decision.