Thu. May 23rd, 2019

Investigate match-fixing: Whitehorse

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Former football administrator Mohau ‘Whitehorse’ Thakaso wants the minister sport to set up a commission of inquiry to look into longstanding allegations of match-fixing by some Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) officials.

Thakaso – a former LeFA spokesperson – wants sports minister Dr Mahali Phamotse to kick-start a probe into the alleged saga amid a crackdown on errant officials in other countries who have received, among others, a lifetime ban for match-fixing.

The convicted officials include Zimbabwean football agent, Kudzania Shaba, who was recently slapped with the lifetime ban by the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) on any form of football related activity both at home and at international levels.

Shaba, according to Zimbabwean media reports, is one of six football agents who were recently slapped with lifetime bans for match-fixing.

FIFA announced a fortnight ago that Shaba is part of a cabal who worked with Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted Singaporean match-fixer to fix matches for betting purposes.

Perumal was reported by the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian to have been in contact with LeFA a few days before Likuena’s allegedly rigged friendly match against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on September 11, 2009.

A former LeFA driver and ex-footballer Likhetho Mokhathi was quoted by the newspaper admitting that one of the association’s executives sent him to Perumal in Pretoria days before the Kuala Lumpur match in 2009.

Mokhathi said he was sent to hand over a bundle of passports belongings to certain officials to a strange man. Although he could not recall the exact date of the meeting, he said he met an “Indian-looking man”, who introduced himself as Raj Perumal, at a train station in Pretoria and handed the passports to him.

The man gave him a business card identifying him as Raj Perumal from Worldwide Sports International located in Bukit Batok, Singapore.

A FIFA report later identified Perumal as the face of Football4U, another front for the worldwide betting syndicate that allegedly fixed the South African national team Bafana Bafana’s matches ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He was found guilty of fixing football matches and served a three-year jail term for bribing players in the Finnish league in February 2011.

Mokhathi was later fired by LeFA in 2012.

It was alleged that Lesotho officials and players were paid huge sums of money to throw the Kuala Lumpur match, which Lesotho lost 5-0.

The 2009 trip was the Lesotho national team’s second tour to Malaysia.

In August 2007, the team participated in the Merdeka Tournament, which had featured hosts Malaysia and less-known football nations like Burma and Laos.

Lesotho won their first game of their tournament 3-1 against Laos.

Mail & Guardian reported that a former Likuena player who asked to remain anonymous claimed that the organisers of the tournament paid each player US$3 000 (more than M40 000) in allowances.

“I want the minister to set up a commission of inquiry because this is high treason where people who are trusted to lead our football are instead conniving with people from other countries to fix games,” Thakaso told Public Eye on Monday.

“Fortunately for us, there is the example of Wilson Raj Perumal, who was convicted and jailed for three years.”

Ernest Sibanda, who was then in charge of the Zimbabwean team, told an investigating committee in 2012 that they met Perumal in Singapore on their way to Malaysia for the Merdeka Tournament.

Sibanda said during their first match they were paid at half-time and by that time they were down by 0-2.

He said they were told to concede two more goals in the second half, adding that made them $1 000 richer each.

Sibanda said at the end of the match each player was paid $1 000 while the officials pocketed $1 400 each.

Two weeks ago, FIFA also issued eight lifetime bans to current and former players after they were found guilty of match manipulation.

Former Sierra Leone captain Ibrahim Kargbo and ex-Trinidad and Tobago defender Keyeno Thomas were among those suspended from all football-related activities over attempts to rig matches at international level.

The world’s football governing body also banned players from Benin, Afghanistan and Cuba.

Kenyan defender George Owino Audi received a 10-year ban and a fine of 15, 000 Swiss francs.

Thakaso, who said he was yet to approach the minister about the establishment of the commission, said local football administrators should not be exempted.

“We should not be exempted because this is corruption and it is because of corruption that we are still where we are in football. Our standard is still very low, while we have plenty of talent.

“We don’t deserve to be where we are in terms of football standard, we deserve to be up there. But our football administrators are dragging us down,” he said.

Thakaso further showed: “We have untapped talent that if utilised well would help improve the economy of this country as some of our players will get to ply their trade in bigger leagues unlike now when our best players can only play professional football in the neighbouring South Africa.”

In 2014, one of Lesotho’s former international players who asked to remain anonymous told Public Eye that he was made aware by one of Likuena’s coaches that the team’s officials and players would be involved in match-fixing in one of the international matches.

He said the coach then asked him whether to include him in the list of the players to be paid for a match-fixing or not, but he (the source) said he turned down the offer.

Former LeFA’s public relations officer, the late Ts’iu Monne, confirmed to this publication that he used to see Likuena coaches drinking cappuccino with Perumal (in the mornings) during the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Bloemfontein.

Monne said at the time he did not know who Perumal was until he saw his picture in the newspapers three years later.

He said after this paper published that story, he volunteered to assist the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) with information about the alleged match-fixing scandal.

But Ts’iu said the DCEO only told him that it would recall him when it needed to talk to him.

Perumal, born 31 July 1965, was accused of several match-fixing scandals including Asiagate in 2007-2009 and 2008-2011 Finnish match-fixing scandal.

He was first jailed for match-fixing in 1995 in Singapore.

Perumal is believed to have also fixed World Cup matches, including the 2010 qualifiers.

According to Thakaso, the commission of inquiry would play a vital and relevant role in weeding out corruption as Lesotho is now in the process of national reforms.

“The commission of inquiry will enable the sport fraternity to also undergo the essential reform processes. Why should the reforms skip football where there is so much notable corruption,” Thakaso said.

Thakaso was ousted from the administration of national football in 2000. He claims he was suspended and later expelled because he was against a colleague who was involved in age cheating.

“In the beginning it was a suspension for two years but even after 10 years I was still not expected to take part in football.

“I am saying this because there was a time when I was elected as the president of Manonyane, but LeFA told the club’s committee that I had been banned from football. So even today when I want to attend football matches I have to disguise myself so that people cannot recognise me.

The same year Thakaso was kicked out of LeFA, he and some friends formed a rival football association called FA which, however, soon collapsed due to lack of funds.

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