AGENTS OF SHAME PLUNGE AFRICAN FOOTBALL INTO A SPIN AND SHAM

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor

RESULTS of scores of football matches played on the African continent in the past eight years, for both the national teams and the CAF inter-club competitions, have been thrown into doubt after a number of referees who handled the games were banned for corrupt activities.

The majority of match officials who have been banned so far are from Ghana, a country that has been reeling from a sting operation that exposed its football leadership and referees to have been part of a cartel, which was getting financial inducements in a shadowy scheme to influence events.

While the rot has been centred on Ghana, whose former football leader Kwesi Nyantakyi was forced to resign in June this year after being filmed by undercover journalists, pretending to be Middle East businessmen, stashing thousands of dollars into a bag in a hotel room in a corrupt transaction, it is also shaking African football.

Aden Marwa, a Kenyan referee, was forced to withdraw from the elite officials who were supposed to officiate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia after being caught in the same sting operation during a tour of duty in West Africa.

On Saturday, the Confederation of African Football handed sanctions on a number of referees, who were caught up in the same scandal of being filmed by undercover journalists receiving cash, in the biggest crack on match officials on the continent in history.

‘’The following decisions were taken by the CAF Disciplinary Board regarding the people involved.

  1. Mr David Laryea, Assistant Referee (Ghana): life ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  2. Mr Lathbridge Reginald, Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  3. Mr Nantierre Eric Assistant Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  4. Mr Fleischer Cecil, Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  5. Mr Ouedraogo Dawood, Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  6. Mr Salifu Malik, Assistant Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  7. Mr S. Akongyam Theresa, Women Assistant Referee (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities;
  8. Mr Wellington Joseph, Technical Instructor (Ghana): 10 years ban from all CAF-related football activities.

‘’The following officials are provisionally suspended pending their appearance in front of the next meeting of the Disciplinary Board:

  1. Mr Bello Aboudou, Referee (Benin)
  2. Mr Baba Leno, Referee (Guinea)
  3. Mr Aderito Marida Silva Assistant Referee (Guinea Bissau)
  4. Mr Daouda Gueye, Referee (Senegal)
  5. Mr Nkounkou Messie, Referee (Congo)
  6. Mr Yamba Armand Gildas, Assistant Referee (Congo)
  7. Mr Blaise Boutamba, Assistant Referee (Congo)
  8. Mr Hamada Nampiandraza, Referee (Madagascar)
  9. Mr Kokolo Fitial Charel Just, Referee (Congo)
  10. Mr Adii Prosper, Referee (Ghana)
  11. Mr Isaka Ayensu Afful, Referee (Ghana)
  12. Mr Anafo Nathan, Referee (Ghana)
  13. Mr Badiu Ibrahim, Assistant Referee (Ghana)
  14. Mr Yekey Jerry, Referee (Liberia).’’

FIFA have already banned controversial Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey for life after he gave South Africa’s Bafana Bafana a ghost penalty in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup with the result of the match being subsequently declared null and void and a replay being ordered.

Senegal won the replay and took a giant step towards qualification for the World Cup, an adventure which the West African nation eventually successfully completed.

Laryea, who was an assistant referee in that match, was first cleared but at the weekend he was caught up in the web and was handed a life ban from all CAF-related activities.

Given the huge numbers of those who have been banned, and those who are waiting to be sanctioned, questions are now being asked about the results of the matches which they handled in the past eight years across the continent.

All the match officials were part of an elite group of referees who handled national team and inter-club competitions in Africa in the past eight years and there are fears they could have been getting cash inducements to influence the results of those matches.

Refereeing always has been a controversial issue in Africa for years but, despite complaints from a number of quarters, especially the travelling teams which were usually given raw deals, the pleas fell on deaf ears as the previous CAF leadership, under Issa Hayatou, ignored the complaints.

Every country in African football has hosted a match, or matches, in which the referees who are now being kicked out of the game for their questionable conduct, handled the games.

Ghanaian referee Cecil Fleischer, who was banned for 10 years by CAF at the weekend, was even given the honour of handling the 2009 Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup match between South Africa and Norway at the Royal Bafokeng Palace in Rustenberg which Bafana Bafana won 2-1 through goals by Bernard Parker and Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Reginald Lathbridge, the other Ghanaian referee who was slapped with a 10-year ban by CAF at the weekend, has also handled matches here in Zimbabwe.

The West African referees who have now been outlawed also used to handle a good number of matches featuring Congolese powerhouse, TP Mazembe, who dominated the continental football scene during that period as they won three CAF Champions League titles.

Lamptey disallowed a Zimbabwean goal that was scored by Tendai Ndoro in the first leg of the 2015 AFCON preliminary round qualifier against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam with the Warriors going down 0-1 in that encounter.

The leading players in the Tanzanian team back then were Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Uliwengu who were both on the books of TP Mazembe at that time.

A number of clubs which lost to Mazembe, especially in Lubumbashi, complained bitterly that the match officials appeared intent on ensuring that the hosts won the matches.

Four years ago, the then Zamalek coach Mido hinted that Mazembe had allegedly bribed Lamptey to beat his team in a Champions League match in Lubumbashi.

“Always I refuse to give excuses for the defeat, but I think that the referee’s performance was clear for all,” Mido said on television. ‘’African football will not move forward if the referees’ faults remain like that.

“In 2009, Egyptian referee Yasser Abdel-Raouf officially accused Mazembe chairman of offering him a bribe. CAF did not react and we are witnessing a repeat of that now.’’

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