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'Compelling evidence' that S. Africa exhibitions fixed

Photo: Action Images/ZumaPress.com

"The full extent of the web of international crime is now exposed,'' said SAFA chief executive Robin Petersen (shown here in October).

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- A FIFA report into match-fixing in the weeks before the 2010 World Cup has found "compelling evidence" that one or more exhibition games involving host South Africa were fixed ahead.

The South African Football Association conceded Saturday that it had been "infiltrated" two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his "bogus" company Football4U, which was a front for Asian betting syndicates.

No players have been implicated in fixing matches. Referees appointed by Perumal's Football4U were thought to have manipulated one or more of South Africa's exhibitions for betting markets. Perumal could have been aided by some South African officials, the SAFA said.

"The full extent of the web of international crime is now exposed," SAFA chief executive Robin Petersen said after South Africa received the report from FIFA.

The SAFA didn't immediately identify the games but South Africa's 5-0 win over Guatemala and 2-1 win over Colombia in late May 2010 - two weeks before the World Cup kicked off - were under suspicion.

Three penalties for hand balls were awarded by Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31, with two of them clearly incorrect. Chaibou also is being sought for questioning by FIFA for his handling of other suspicious games in Africa, Asia and South America, where a high number of penalties were awarded, apparently to feed betting scams.

All three goals in the South Africa-Colombia game on May 27, which was refereed by a Kenyan official, came on penalty kicks. That match was the official re-opening Soccer City stadium, which hosted Spain's victory over Netherlands in the World Cup final a little over a month later.

South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1 in games to prepare for the World Cup.

"The FIFA report addresses the question as to whether one or more of the pre-World Cup friendly matches was fixed and finds compelling evidence that this was indeed the case," the SAFA said in a statement Saturday.

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