JOHANNESBURG – The South African Football Association suspended its president and four other officials Monday after a FIFA report into match-fixing ahead of the 2010 World Cup found "compelling evidence" that one or more games were fixed by betting syndicates.
In a statement Monday, the association said it issued an apology to the world soccer body and said it would launch its own internal investigation into the officials' actions. As part of the investigation, it said the association's committee asked President Kirsten Nematandani to "take a voluntary leave of absence from his position."
Four other association officials — Dennis Mumble, Lindile 'Ace' Kika, Adeel Carelse and Barney Kujane — also were asked to take voluntary leave, the statement said. Mwelo Nonkonyana, the association's vice president, has taken over as interim president.
"This is a difficult situation for the association, and for those who have been named in the report," Nonkonyana said in the statement. "We hope that there will be no speculation about their presumed guilt or otherwise. We need to allow the investigation to take place speedily and fairly, so those that are innocent can be separated from those who are not."
The association said Saturday that it had received the report from FIFA on Friday. The association acknowledged then that it had been "infiltrated" two years ago by now-convicted match-fixer Wilson Perumal and his "bogus" soccer company Football4U, which was a front for Asian betting syndicates.
No players have been implicated in fixing matches. Instead, FIFA-approved referees appointed by Perumal's Football4U were thought to have manipulated one or more of South Africa's World Cup buildup games for betting markets. Perumal could have also been aided by some South African officials, SAFA said.
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 handball were awarded by Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou in the South Africa-Guatemala game on May 31, with two of them appearing to be incorrect. Chaibou is also 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 from penalty kicks. That match was the official opening of South Africa's redeveloped Soccer City showpiece stadium, which hosted Spain's victory over Netherlands in the World Cup final a little more than a month later.
South Africa also beat Thailand 4-0 and drew with Bulgaria 1-1 in preparation games ahead of the World Cup.
After allegations of fixing in the World Cup buildup, SAFA asked FIFA to take over the investigation. The world soccer body began looking at the matches in March this year.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP