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SAFA agrees to match-fixing inquiry

8 April 2013-AP

The South African Football Association has agreed to allow the government to begin investigating suspected match-fixing in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup, but says it wants a top FIFA prosecutor to join in.

SAFA says its executive committee 'unanimously endorsed and approved' an agreement already reached by world body FIFA, South Africa's government and SAFA's president at a meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Friday.

The decision by SAFA's executive committee gave the formal go-ahead for the government to take the lead in investigating allegations of match-fixing in the national team's warm-up games in the weeks before the country hosted the World Cup. There are suspicions that some of SAFA's own officials may have been involved in corruption.

While allowing the government to take over, SAFA recommended that the chairman of the investigating arm of FIFA's ethics committee, Michael Garcia, be part of a three-member judicial commission. SAFA also wants the investigation to take no longer than three months and the final report to be sent to the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.

The commission should be set up as 'a matter of urgency', SAFA said.

The inclusion of FIFA's Garcia would give the investigation a football presence, but must be agreed to by the government.

No players are implicated in fixing. Rather, corrupt referees and possibly SAFA officials may have helped manipulate games under the direction of convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal. Perumal's bogus football agency was allowed to appoint referees for some of the games, and SAFA has conceded there was evidence that it was 'infiltrated' by match-fixers before the World Cup.

Five SAFA officials, including its president, were suspended briefly last year then reinstated pending any formal hearings.

On Saturday, SAFA said that 'no past or present (South African) officials involved in football' should be part of the investigating commission.

With FIFA's strict rules against government involvement in football in mind, the government-appointed commission is limited to investigating only the World Cup warm-up games. But the agreement allowed the investigation to finally go ahead months after FIFA sent a report to SAFA saying there was compelling evidence of match-fixing. The investigation stalled because of friction between SAFA, the government and the national Olympic committee on who should control the probe.

The exact matches under suspicion haven't been identified, but South Africa's 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in late May 2010 have long been under suspicion.

Three penalties for handball were awarded by Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game, the match that raised the most concern. FIFA also wants to question Chaibou for his handling of other friendlies in Africa, Asia and South America, where a high number of penalties were awarded, apparently to feed illegal betting.

The South Africa-Colombia game was the official opening of Soccer City in Soweto near Johannesburg, the venue for the World Cup final a little over a month later. All three goals in that friendly, which was refereed by Kenyan official Samuel Langat, came from penalty kicks.

Other warm-up games might be looked at. South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1.

FIFA clearly believes there is a case to answer.

"It is vital that this matter which dates back to 2010 is concluded soon, with the culprits to be sanctioned in accordance with the zero tolerance policy," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said.

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