Johannesburg - A group of South African match officials has sent out a strong message about their stance on corruption.
Big ups to referee Victor Gomes, assistants Johannes Moshidi and Athenkosi Ndongeni, and fourth official Thando Ndzandzeka for turning down a bribe to fix last weekend’s CAF Confederation Cup game. Nigeria’s Plateau United went on to beat Algeria’s USM Alger 2-1 fair and square.
Gomes and his team were offered $30 000 (R362 556) in cash ahead of the game, but refused to take the bribe. However, while they deserve to be commended for reporting the matter, we should also be careful not to praise fish for swimming.
It is their responsibility to make sure matches are played fairly and that results are not manipulated. Either way, we are grateful to them for upholding the moral standards encouraged by the SA Football Association (Safa).
Unsurprisingly, Safa was quick to praise them.
Safa’s head of referees Tenda Masikhwa said: “Our officials showed the rest of the continent and the world that they won’t tolerate corruption. We are proud of what they did. This is why South African referees are respected and highly sought-after.”
On the other hand, the ABC Motsepe League is riddled with allegations of match-fixing. Although Safa vowed to deal with the plague of corruption in the lower division, the association has done little to make good on its promise.
It is time for Safa bosses to put their money where their mouths are regarding match-fixing.
The third tier league is besieged with corruption scandals and, until Safa does something meaningful – like send people to jail or ban them for life – the fraudulent conduct will continue unabated.
If Safa is serious about beating corruption, it needs to stop the lip service and act immediately.
What’s even more surprising is CAF’s silence. The continental football body has not said much since the matter was reported.
Aside from promising to conduct an investigation, CAF has not spoken about the incident. What if nothing is done or the perpetrators are not brought to book?
Although Gomes’ and his team’s conduct was respectable, it might have been career suicide. Club officials will be wary of approaching them in future for fear of being exposed. Gomes and his officials might also be victimised for speaking out against the corrupt activities that have been going on for far too long in African football, and traps might be set to tarnish their image.
From now on, all their decisions will be scrutinised. Although they do not have anything to be afraid of, they must be careful not to get into any trouble. This is Africa and anything is possible.
If nothing is done about this matter, match officials will be too scared to report any suspicious activities in future.
I bet this is not the first time match officials have been offered bribes. Why hasn’t anything been done about this? There are always allegations of clubs offering money to officials in an attempt to sway matches in their favour. This is nothing new.
Where are the other match officials who have been approached? By coming out, Gomes and company ran the risk of being labelled sell-outs.
It is common knowledge that the rest of the continent believes South Africans think too highly of themselves. Gomes’ and his team’s actions could perpetuate this stereotype, particularly among those who harbour ill feelings towards the country.
The onus is on football authorities to send a strong warning to the perpetrators. It is the first step to cleaning up African football’s image.
The next problem to tackle is age fraud, a form of cheating that is widespread in football across the continent.
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