SOUTH African soccer was plunged into crisis yesterday – just a month before the country hosts the Africa Cup of Nations finals – with the suspension of five top soccer officials after the release of a Fifa report on match-fixing.
Safa has suspended its president, Kirsten Nematandani, and four senior administrators following the report into match-fixing involving Bafana Bafana.
“This action in no way implies that these individuals were involved in match-fixing,” Safa said yesterday.
“It is simply for good governance that this measure is being implemented.”
Safa’s emergency committee met on Friday and Sunday after Fifa handed over the report on warm- up matches ahead of the 2010 World Cup, hosted by South Africa.
It said a commission of inquiry, headed by a retired judge, would be set up to investigate the matter.
Aside from Nematandani, Safa chief operating officer and interim chief executive Dennis Mumble, head of referees Adeel Carelse, head of national teams Lindile Kika and former head of national teams Barney Kujane would also take a voluntary leave of absence after their names were mentioned in the 500-page Fifa report.
They will all give evidence in the commission of inquiry.
The report investigated the activities of convicted Singapore match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal and his bogus Football 4U organisation.
“These suspensions were necessary for good governance and for allowing this matter to be thoroughly and properly investigated,” outgoing chief executive Robin Petersen, who was due to hand over to Mumble next month, said.
Fifa has alleged that the results of pre-World Cup warm-up matches against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in the weeks leading up to the 2010 finals were fixed.
The suspended officials had engaged Perumal to organise opponents for Bafana as they prepared to host the World Cup, and then also agreed to Perumal’s suggestion that he bring in and pay referees from other African countries to handle the matches, Safa said.
The referees then allegedly fixed the results of the games to benefit an Asian betting syndicate. There were apparently dubious penalty decisions and poor offside calls.
Safa said it would ask a retired judge to take charge of an urgent commission of inquiry “so that the issue can be speedily resolved”.
Safa vice-president Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana will serve as acting president in Nematandani’s absence. Pinky Lehoko had been appointed interim chief executive.
“This is a difficult situation for the association, and for those who have been named in the report,” Nonkonyana said.
“We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise,” he said.
“We need to allow the investigation to take place speedily and fairly, so those who are innocent can be separated from those who are not.”
Former chief executive Lesley Sedibe and former head of referees Steve Goddard would be asked to give evidence and cooperate with the inquiry.
Sedibe welcomed the commission of inquiry and said he would give his full support and cooperation to help bring the matter to finality.
“In the meantime, given that I do not have a copy of the report, I will be formally requesting a copy from Safa to help me prepare for the inquiry,” he said.
Safa said it had apologised to Fifa after “compelling evidence” was found that the results of World Cup warm-up matches were fixed.
The Fifa report was completed by the global body’s former head of security, Chris Eaton.