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I'm a scapegoat, says soccer's ‘Mr Clean’

22 August 2016, 18:17 Sy Lerman

Cape Town - Former SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani says he has been made a scapegoat after FIFA's Ethics Committee this week recommended he should be suspended for six years from soccer and fined approximately R140 000.

And the shocked and incensed Nematandani said he was taking legal action to clear his name and, if necessary, reveal which South African officials were linked to the infamous match-fixing scandal of Bafana Bafana games before the hosting of the 2010 World Cup.

And it is not difficult understanding Nematandani's indignation. In a soccer environment in which startling and stark issues of bribery and match-fixing have surfaced in South African soccer, the urbane former SAFA president has in contrast been praised and admired for his honesty and integrity.

"I can honestly claim that in my many years as a soccer administrator", said Nematandani, "I have never been involved in a single questionable deal - let alone something like match-fixing."

Nematandani says he was informed of the decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee by SAFA CEO Dennis Mumble, but he has not discussed the issue with Safa president Danny Jordaan, who was CEO of the World Cup Organising Committee leading up to the 2010 tournament.

That the match-fixing took place in ensuring Bafana victories in friendly games before the World Cup seems beyond doubt, with convicted Singapore fraudster, Wilson Perumal, who master-minded the operation, having disclosed full details of the scheme.

What is more, a FIFA investigation as far back as 2012 confirmed the bribery took place, but Nematandani says at no stage was he ever asked to give his side of the story - and he believes his proposed banning and fine must have been the result of information gleaned from SAFA at top level.

"I don't know whether certain SAFA officials are intent on saving their own skin," said Nematandani, "and someone at FIFA is protecting them."

Nematandani says he is loathe at this point to mention names -"because it would be shocking and damaging for South African soccer as a whole. But if I have to do so to clear my reputation, which is affecting  my personal and business connections, I might have to take this step."

The SAFA president from 2009 to 2013 says in retrospect he has to accept that match-fixing took place among those handling the World Cup preparation. "But at the time I did not have an inkling of what was going on in this matter."

He says, if anything, he was "a little naive" in leaving matters to those who had been experienced in international soccer matters and the World Cup issue for a far longer period than himself  - "and trusting them."

Ironically, it is believed that the South Africans who initially negotiated with Perumal in providing tainted referees for the games in which he was involved, did so in the misguided belief of enhancing Bafana's suspect image at the time in order to maximise interest in the World Cup  - and not for financial gain.

Leslie Sedibe, who was SAFA CEO at the time of the match-fixing debacle, and a number of other local refereeing officials have received lengthy suspensions, while also proclaiming their innocence.

And Sedibe, a lawyer by profession, has announced he is suing SAFA for a massive R5m for damaging his reputation.

- Sport24


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