FIFA to investigate fixed World Cup matches in SA

Allegations that South Africa’s warm-up matches before hosting the 2010 World Cup were fixed will be discussed with the country’s sports minister and top football official at FIFA on Friday.THE ASSOCIATED PRESS / APRIL 4, 2013 / GENEVA 

FIFA said Thursday that its secretary general Jerome Valcke is meeting Minister of Sports Fikile Mbalula and South African Football Association President Kirsten Nematandani.

Nematandani was briefly suspended by SAFA last December after a FIFA report found “compelling” evidence that some World Cup preparation matches were fixed.

SAFA, which announced last year it would set up an investigation into the case, has acknowledged it had been “infiltrated” by Wilson Raj Perumal, a now-convicted match-fixer whose promotions agency appointed referees for games including the official opening of the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg in May 2010. Weeks later the venue hosted the World Cup final.

FIFA said in a statement that Friday’s meeting will “make sure all parties do have the same level of information.”

“In addition, FIFA looks forward to receive the report from the South African Police to evaluate further steps in the fight against match manipulation,” football’s world governing body said.

The meeting at FIFA headquarters is scheduled on the same morning that its President Sepp Blatter and security director, Ralf Mutschke, address a conference in Zurich on the threats posed by match-fixing and corrupt betting.

The South African case has cast a shadow on the country’s successful hosting of the World Cup which defied many doubts about its ability to organize the tournament safely.

FIFA and SAFA haven’t identified games that might have been fixed 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. FIFA also wants to question Chaibou for his handling of other friendly games in Africa, Asia and South America, where a high number of penalties were awarded.

All three goals in the South Africa-Colombia game, which was refereed by Kenyan official Samuel Langat, came from penalty kicks. Langat was dropped from FIFA’s list of referees authorized for international matches at the end of 2010, while Chaibou reached the mandatory retirement age of 45 in 2011.

South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1 in preparation games ahead of its historic World Cup, the first in Africa.

Nematandani and four other officials were initially asked to take a voluntary leave of absence. They were reinstated while SAFA began setting up an independent commission to investigate in consultation with the national Olympic committee and ministry of sport. The inquiry would be headed by a retired judge, SAFA said.

In February, the federation said again that the commission would be established “as soon as possible,” but no appointments have apparently yet been made.

* AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report from Johannesburg.

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