By Andrew Warshaw
August 19 – Former South African Football Association (SAFA) president Kirsten Nematandani has come out fighting over allegations of ethics violations related to the fixing of international friendlies in 2010 just weeks before South Africa hosted the World Cup.
FIFA Ethics investigators have recommended a six-year ban and a CHF10,000 fine for Nematandani who served as SAFA president from 2009 to 2013 but he has denounced the ruling, telling the Sowetan newspaper he had “never stolen a cent” in his life and would “not even attempt to fix a match”.
The alleged offences relate to warm-up matches South Africa played against Thailand, Bulgaria, Colombia and Guatemala in May 2010 ahead of the World Cup. Convicted Singapore-based match-fixer Wilson Perumal’s company provided the match officials for the four games and flew in officials from Kenya, Niger and Togo after apparently being given the go-ahead by SAFA of which Nematandani was president at the time.
Perumal has admitted in a book that some of the games were manipulated and that he had paid officials in order to benefit Asian betting syndicates. South Africa were awarded two disputed penalties in a 2-1 victory over Colombia in Johannesburg on May 27, 2010. One was ordered to be retaken twice after the initial efforts were saved. Colombia’s goal also came from a penalty. Four days later South Africa were awarded another two spotkicks in a 5-0 win over Guatemala in Polokwane.
Allegations that Bafana Bafana’s friendlies in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup were fixed first emerged in December that year. But in a fierce defence of his reputation, Nematandani insisted he had nothing to do with any of the alleged offences and accused FIFA of not giving him or others named in the match-fixing fiasco – Jonathan Musavengana (former official of the Zimbabwe FA) and Banna Tchanile (former Togo Coach) – an opportunity to defend themselves.
“I have built my reputation through hard work over many years. I was the chairperson of the referees committee for years. Why didn’t I fix matches then? Why would I fix friendly games?” he said.
“I have not appeared before any tribunal. I was not charged with anything. How can FIFA operate like that? It seems they decided every South African who was named in their initial report is guilty. Nobody who was named was ever cross-examined.”
Nematandani also messaged members of a group calling itself ‘Football Africa Arena’ saying he felt “seriously aggrieved by some of the statements about me. I’m not corrupt, I do not get involved in match fixing. This is about my reputation. The right of the accused person (is) to be presumed innocent.”
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