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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fifa-Interpol match-fixing seminar starts

From Wellington Toni in Johannesburg, South Africa
The first Fifa-Interpol Integrity in Sport seminar opens this morning with eight countries falling under the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) attending.
The seminar, named the “Regional Integrity Workshop-Tackling Match-fixing and Corruption in Football” ends tomorrow and Zimbabwe, through the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has been asked to present a paper.

Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe will be represented.

The workshop is expected to be opened by South Africa Sport minister Fikile Mbalula while Cosafa president Suketu Patel would address the gathering.
Interpol Steering Group chairperson John Abbott is the facilitator.

Zifa is represented by vice-president Ndumiso Gumede, board member (finance) Elliot Kasu, chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze and lawyer Ralph Maganga, who all arrived yesterday afternoon.

The Premier Soccer League is expected to be represented by chief executive Kenny Ndebele.

Ndebele was in Zambia for a top-flight league seminar where he was guest presenter as a Fifa Regional Instructor together with the chief executive officer of the National Football Association of Swaziland, Frederick Mngomezulu.

Speaking on arrival, Mashingaidze last night, said:
“We hope to learn how best to handle such issues in future, being mindful of the experiences that other countries have gone through in the past.”

The Interpol workshop brings together regional football administrators, player representatives, referees, betting regulators and law enforcement agents to improve awareness and understanding of corruption in football, the strategies used by perpetrators and methods to recognise, resist and report them.

Zimbabwe would be used as a case study at the workshop after 96 players were suspended for alleged involvement in Asian betting syndicates linked to match-fixing. Thirty three players have since been cleared. The scandal, known as Asiagate, involved players who allegedly took bribes to throw friendly matches between 2007 and 2009 in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

The probe to conclude the investigations, led by retired High Court judge Justice Ahmed Ebrahim, was due to be completed two weeks ago, but has now been pushed to early next month after eight new witnesses were identified after an interview with an alleged match-fixer.

Further allegations of match-fixing were mentioned in June before the Warriors-Burundi Africa Cup of Nations second leg qualifier, where Zifa alleged that two players had been spotted in the company of one of the alleged match-fixers.

That led to top striker Knowledge Musona quitting the Warriors and demanding an apology from Zifa before he could return. On Wednesday, he was named in the squad to face Angola in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier first leg set for September 9 at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Last month, world football governing body Fifa, who pledged $28 million towards the fight against match-fixing, ratified the appointment of former Interpol director Ralf Mutschke as the new Director of Security.

He replaced Chris Eaton who has moved to Qatar. The Fifa-Interpol initiative has already held a workshop in Finland where Asiagate suspect Wilson Raj Perumal did some jail time over similar allegations.

Mutschke recently told that they needed more evidence to convict match fixers.
“It is Fifa policy to have a zero-tolerance attitude (towards match-fixing) and to act accordingly. I’d like punishments to be given out more frequently, as long as there is sufficient evidence to do so.

“Fifa has to send out a signal to show that these matters will not be overlooked and that they will be forcefully dealt with. Our objective is long-term success in order to make the sport cleaner.”

He added: “It’s not possible to defeat criminal activity altogether and match-fixing is clearly such an activity.

We’d need to create a different society in order to get rid of it. Corruption is another issue that will persist.

“However, I hope we can minimise the problem and restrict it. In that respect, we will continue to put match fixers under considerable pressure. On top of that, I’m counting on preventative measures and hope that in the long-term we can give our youth the strength to develop resistance to criminal temptations to make a fast buck. But we won’t be able to completely eliminate the problem.”