Gloom for players

HARARE - A dark cloud hung over several Zimbabwean football players and officials following the completion of the Asiagate match-fixing probe, which could spell dire consequences for individuals implicated in the scam.  

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is likely to endorse recommendations by an Independent Ethics Committee which has suggested severe punishment comprising life and lengthy bans.

The Ethics Committee, led by retired Supreme Court judge Ahmed Ebrahim, yesterday announced completing the drawn-out probe almost a year after being appointed by Zifa in October last year.

In the eventuality of a Zifa endorsement, which the association has implied, world football governing body Fifa will also likely rubber-stamp the decision by its affiliate, leaving a whole generation of footballers on the streets.

Zifa early this year suspended more than 90 players and three board members on allegations of match-fixing on several national team trips to Asia between 2007 and 2009. At least 40 players have been exonerated of any wrongdoing.

Some of the players and a coach allegedly admitted throwing away games during exhibition matches in lieu of cash rewards.

Yesterday Ebrahim said the full report has now been handed over to Zifa, which is expected to make the report public this week.

“My committee has just completed a task which it embarked upon about 11 months ago,” said Ebrahim in a statement yesterday.

“It has been tortuous, stressful period in our lives and we have been operating with virtually no resources. We have been maligned and some of our members have been libelled…I therefore make no apologies on behalf of my committee or myself for having taken the time we have taken to be here today.”

In his statement, Ebrahim fingered a betting syndicate led by jailed Singaporean agent Wilson Raj Perumal as the mastermind.

“Some of officials and players will undoubtedly have their football futures ruined by these greedy, despicable, ruthless and unfeeling miscreants. It is doubtful if these people will ever even have the slightest thought of recompensing these young football players, who will no doubt be disadvantaged in future.”

The committee recommended life ban for 13 individuals, 10-year bans for seven accomplices and a five-year ban for 37 others. The other recommended bans stand between two years and six months, while eight more players will be freed.

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