HARARE – World football governing body Fifa says it cannot endorse bans handed down on Zimbabwean footballers and officials involved in the widely-publicised Asiagate match-fixing scandal, it emerged on Friday.
The Zimbabwe Football ?Association (Zifa) in 2012 banned for life over 15 individuals fingered in the biggest scandal ever to hit Zimbabwean football.
Almost 100 local footballers were also found guilty of receiving sums of money from an illegal Asian betting syndicate between 2007 and 2009 to lose fixed matches by predetermined scores.
The players were later pardoned by Zifa and ordered to pay varying admission of guilty fines.
And then last year, Zifa approached Fifa to lobby the Zurich-based organisation to endorse these suspensions.
Fifa deputy secretary to the Disciplinary Committee, Octavian Bivolaru, this week wrote to Zifa CEO Jonathan Mashingaidze insisting they need more evidence.
“We acknowledge receipt of your letters dated 25 November 2013 and 18 December 2013, received on 24 December 2013, the content of which has been duly noted,” wrote Bivolaru.
“In this regard, we would like to refer you to our previous letter of 25 November 2013 and to confirm that, based on the documents currently in our possession and for the reasons explained in the aforementioned letter, the Chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee is not in a position to extend the sanctions imposed by your association on various players and officials in the scope of the investigations and proceedings conducted into the ‘Asiagate’ scandal so as to have worldwide extent in accordance with art. 136 off the Fifa Disciplinary Code (FDC).”
Zifa has also requested a meeting with the Fifa Disciplinary Committee and according to Bivolaru, this meeting will only materialise if there is new evidence.
“Furthermore, we note that you have requested a meeting between your association and Fifa to discuss the matter. In this respect, you are kindly asked to provide the Chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee with any documents and evidence that are not already in the possession of the Chairman, and which would justify the holding of such a meeting,” wrote Bivolaru.
“Upon receipt of the aforementioned documentation, the Chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee will evaluate any further steps to be taken, in particular the opportunity to hold a meeting as requested by your association.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mashingaidze or the Zifa legal advisor Ralf Maganga were futile last night as their phones were not reachable.
Between 2007 and 2009, the Zimbabwe national team participated in dubious friendly internationals that are believed to have been fixed by Asian betting syndicates led by the jailed match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.
After details of the scandal started to emerge, Zifa ordered a probe team chaired by the association’s vice-president Ndumiso Gumede to look into the matches.
The Gumede probe team interviewed a number of players before providing their findings to the ad hoc Zifa Ethics Committee chaired by retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ahmed Ebrahim.
The Ethics Committee then held its own hearings before making recommendations to the Zifa board which in turn handed out the sentences.
A Zifa Appeals Committee has not yet released verdicts of individuals given lengthy or life bans by Zifa.
Sources tell the Daily News that lawyers representing the individuals have been told by Zifa officials that the delay has been caused by late payment of judges who sat on the Appeals Committee.
“As far as we are concerned, we have done our job,” said a member of the Appeals Committee who spoke on condition on anonymity.
“It’s now up to Zifa to release to you guys what needs to be released.”
Only this week, world football players’ union FIFPro urged Fifa to throw away the bans, citing irregularities in the imposition of the sanctions.
“For almost two years these players have been waiting for justice to prevail,” said FIFPro in a statement.
“Innocent players have lost their jobs which has not only hurt their personal lives but also that of their families and relatives.”