SAfrica says FIFA 'inefficient' on match-fixing claims
LONDON (AP) The South African sports minister has accused FIFA of being ''very inefficient'' and not acting decisively on match-fixing investigations.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Fikile Mbalula criticized the failure of football's governing body to complete an investigation into whether 2010 World Cup warm-up matches were fixed.
FIFA found strong evidence of match-fixing in games involving South Africa in the weeks before the World Cup, with accusations that referees manipulated the games for illegal Asian betting syndicates.
FIFA agreed in April 2013 to allow the South African government to set up an inquiry. But the lack of progress led FIFA's ethics committee to start investigating the matter later in the year.
''It has not damaged us (the delay) ... it has actually damaged FIFA's image as very inefficient and very relaxed to allegations of corruption and not dealing with them decisively,'' Mbalula told the AP during a visit to London. ''It has affected their image. So to rid of that image, they need to deal decisively with this allegation and put it in abeyance.
''That image that FIFA is a corrupt body still stands out in the world among ordinary people,'' he added.
The FIFA ethics committee investigatory chamber is being run by former prosecutor Cornel Borbely after lead prosecutor Michael Garcia resigned in protest in December over the investigation into World Cup bidding corruption.
In response to South Africa's complaints about the match-fixing investigation, Borbely's office said it ''cannot confirm whether or not there is any investigation pending regarding the subject.''
Mbalula said he is expecting pressure from South African legislators over the status of the investigation when he appears in front of a parliamentary committee later this month.
''It is a matter that we need to bring closure to - the question of the match-fixing that is alleged and FIFA must bring the report to South Africa and close the matter,'' Mbalula said. ''It's a pain on us. It's like an albatross that we are unable to take off our neck. But we will put pressure in the next coming weeks.''
Some of the South African warm-up games under scrutiny are believed to have been manipulated by referees working for the Singapore-based betting syndicate of Wilson Raj Perumal and Dan Tan, who is accused of coordinating a global crime syndicate that made millions of dollars betting on rigged matches.
No players have been implicated in match-fixing. But corrupt referees and possibly South African Football Association officials may have helped to manipulate games under the direction of convicted match-fixer Perumal. Perumal's bogus football agency was allowed to appoint referees for some of the games, and SAFA has conceded there was evidence that it was ''infiltrated'' by match-fixers before the World Cup.
The exact matches under suspicion haven't been identified, 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 Nigerien referee Ibrahim Chaibou in the Guatemala game. All three goals in the Colombia friendly, which was refereed by Kenyan official Samuel Langat, came from penalty kicks.
Chaibou and Langat have denied being involved in match-fixing.
In April 2013, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said it was vital the investigation ''is concluded soon, with the culprits to be sanctioned in accordance with the zero tolerance policy.''
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.