THE 2012 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season has been hit by fresh allegations of match-fixing following revelations that a highly respected official tried to influence the outcome of a match involving relegation teams.
BY SPORTS REPORTERS
This comes barely three weeks after over 80 players were banned for their alleged involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal in which they undertook trips to the Far East where they were allegedly paid by Asian betting syndicates to lose matches between 2007 and 2009.
Already 15 players and officials have been handed life bans after they were found guilty following an investigation into the scandal by retired Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Ebrahim-led Independent Ethics Committee.
Several others implicated in the scandal are expected to be advised of their fate by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).
But recent investigations by this paper have revealed that the match-fixing scam has also taken root in the Premiership with top teams in the league and those fighting relegation reported to be in the mix, aided by suspect referees, club officials, symphathisers and some coaches.
A source, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, said this has been happening for a long time. He said there was an attempt by a certain official to fix the match between Gunners and Blue Rangers. He said the official approached one of the players and dangled a $300 carrot to each member of the team if they lost the match.
“The player was very professional. He reported the matter to the club officials. The players were told to ignore it and concentrate on the match.
These things are happening in our league. There should be effort by authorities to stamp out match-fixing in our football,” said the source.
Rangers, who are battling for survival in the top flight league, won the match in question 3-2. Rangers are on 14th position from the bottom with 24 points, while Gunners are a rung up with 25 points after stunning Monomotapa 1-0 on Wednesday.
Gunners, who are coached by Moses Chunga, still have outstanding fixtures against Harare City, Motor Action and Chicken Inn, while Partson Ndabambi’s Rangers are still to play Shabanie (home), Hwange (away) and Highlanders at home in their last game of the season.
Gunners secretary Stanley Makombe refuted allegations levelled against his team, but admitted that Ndabambi had gone on a tirade during lunch at a local restaurant prior to their clash.
“What I know is there was an incident when Thanks Tengwe was in a certain restaurant where there was also a player from Blue Rangers.
“Then the Blue Rangers coach (Ndabambi) arrived and when he found the two together, he said a lot of things as he ate his sadza. That’s all I know about this incident. Tengwe should know better. But obviously as a club, there was no way we could bribe their players to fix that match.”
Attempts to talk to Tengwe failed after his boss Chunga said he was not allowed to talk to the media after Wednesday’s match against Monomotapa. Hwange, Hardbody, Quelaton and Black Mambas are also staring relegation in the face and need to survive. But the source maintained that there would be no miracles as some of the matches were predetermined.
“You say when one of these teams survive relegation it is a miracle. There are no miracles. It’s simply money changing hands,” said the source.
Another source added that there was match-fixing involving the top teams.
“Even at the top, matches are being fixed,” the source said.
Speaking to this publication on condition of anonymity, a referee revealed that at one point he was forced to accept bribery money by a referees committee senior official.
“I was forced to accept money to decide the outcome of a match in which the team that I was supposed to give advantage was chasing the championship (name of team supplied). But as a young man, I am still trying to make a good name for myself. I thought it was not justified. I refused the money.
“I can tell you there was a lot of match-fixing in the Midlands Province last year.
Even those referees that have been banned are not complaining at all. They would tell you that although they were banned, they did enjoy the benefits of fixing matches,” added the match official.
Central Region chairman Patrick Hokonya, Southern Region boss Gift Banda, former committee chairperson Samukeliso Silengane and former top referee Cosmas Nyoni were suspended last year for their alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal in the Central Region and their cases are still pending at Zifa.
Dynamos are leading the league table with 62 points from 27 matches, while Highlanders are two points adrift with three matches before the end of the campaign. Zifa president Cuthbert Dube recently disclosed that there was match-fixing in Division One leagues and the Premier League. He said they would start investigations on reports of match fixing in the Premier Soccer League and the Division One Leagues.
“We have heard reports of match-fixing in Division One and the Premier Soccer league. We are also going to investigate that. The level of refereeing in the country has just become atrocious,” said Dube.
Last year Zifa sidelined local whistlemen for the Mbada Diamonds Cup amid claims of a bung culture. Zambian and South African referees were brought in for the semi-finals and final of the country’s richest knockout tournament — a move heavily criticised by local association who even issued threats to boycott officiating in league matches.
Although the Zifa bosses insisted they took the action to protect sponsors from any adverse publicity and that their actions were not driven by lack of confidence in their own officials, they now believe the referees are also involved in match fixing.