Fifa dismiss Asiagate claims

HARARE - FIFA has dismissed as “pure speculation” reports that the world football governing body has ordered reversal of punishments meted out to several individuals in Zimbabwe’s Asiagate match-fixing scandal.

Reports were rife last week that Zifa’s drawn-out probe into the biggest scandal ever to hit Zimbabwean football, and subsequent sanctions which range between life bans and wholly-suspended sentences, have been quashed by Fifa after the Zurich-based organisation was purportedly unimpressed by Zifa’s handling of the scam.

Unofficial statements attributed to Fifa sources and apparently giving the impression that they were gleaned from documents of the federation’s powerful executive committee said endorsement of the Asiagate punishments “would be a gross violation of the spirit of Fair Play.”

Fifa denies ever making such statements.

“I can confirm that what appeared on Zimbabwe’s media is pure speculation,” read a short statement from Fifa yesterday.  

“No decision has been made on Zifa’s Asiagate sanctions.”

And in the wake of Fifa’s statement, Zifa president Cuthbert Dube came out fighting last night, saying the initial media reports attributed to Fifa were “of some people who would like to reverse the gains of our resolute crusade against match-fixing and illegal betting.”

The current Zifa administration views the Asiagate investigation as its biggest achievement since assuming office in 2010, blaming the match-fixing scourge for the country’s failure to qualify for the last four African Nations Cup editions.

Reports that Asigate had crumbled before Zifa’s eyes were naturally going to draw a sharp-tongued reaction from the association.

“We are also aware that the same people would like football in this country to be ungovernable as long as they are not in power,” added Dube in a statement.

“Individuals bent on causing alarm and despondency should brace for the full weight of the football statues. Zifa cannot allow football to continue to be sacrificed on the altar of self-enrichment and greed. Individuals who sold the soul of Zimbabwean football at the match-fixing and illegal betting ‘stock exchange’ in Asia and elsewhere between 2007 and 2010 should face the consequences.”

Zifa says Fifa’s decision on Asiagate is likely to be made “sometime this month or next month,” saying the associations’ sanctions remain unchanged.

“In the meantime, Zifa reserves its right to take legal action against mischief makers where deemed necessary. The Zifa board will be meeting next week to discuss finality around the Asiagate scandal.”

Zifa also furnished evidence that documents containing submissions of the final report on Asiagate were indeed sent to Fifa, complete with copy of a DHL receipt.

 The submissions were sent to Fifa security chief Ralf Mutchske, Fifa’s regional development officer Ashford Mamelodi, Cosafa Chief Operating Office Sue Destombes, Confederation of African Football (Caf) general-secretary Hitsham El Amrani as well as Zimbabwe’s Sports Recreation Commission (SRC)director general Charles Nhemachena and the late vice-resident John Mkno, who was the Zifa patron.

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