The South African Football Association has, once again, been embroiled in another scandal that threatens to shake the mother body and South African football to its foundations!
Former SAFA officials, Leslie Sedibe, Steve Goddard and Adeel Carelse have all been “banned from any football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level” in an announcement made by FIFA on Monday afternoon.
The three officials’ bans come on the heels of former head of referees Lindile ‘Ace’ Kika’s six-year ban meted out last year.
The bans instituted by the independent Ethics Committee involve international friendlies played by Bafana Bafana in 2010, one of which was the 5-0 win over Guatemala. Kika was slapped with a six-year ban for his alleged role in match-fixing, while Sedibe has been adjudged to have infringed article 13 (General rules of conduct), article 15 (Loyalty) and article 18 (Duty of disclosure, cooperation and reporting) of the FIFA Code of Ethics. He’s been banned for five years with a fine of about R314 000. Goddard and Carelse were also found guilty of violating the same articles and both have been banned for two years. All the bans are with immediate effect.
It has been only seven months since the contentious SAFA’s 2008 $10-million payment to Concacaf for the African Diaspora Legacy Programme came to light, and it now looks like there is more to come.
SAFA moved swiftly to welcome the ban, proclaiming their ‘zero-tolerance policy on corruption.’
“We are glad this matter has ultimately reached this stage since SAFA reported the matter to FIFA almost four years ago. It had dragged on too long for our liking and was starting to have an impact on us as an association and our valued stakeholders.
“At SAFA we have a zero-tolerance policy for any corrupt activity which impacts negatively on this beautiful game and for that reason we welcome strong measures against any individual who is found guilty of such offenses. This should serve as a warning to anyone harbouring intentions of engaging in nefarious activities within the sport that the long arm of the law will catch up with them. Be warned,” said Poobalan Govindasamy, the chairperson of the SAFA ethics committee.
While Govindasamy’s words might have given some hope to the multitudes of football supporters, what happened at Leslie Sedibe’s personal press conference later on Monday, however, was earth-shattering! The astute former CEO painted a horrible picture of the same corruption that the association claims to have “zero tolerance” for. Sedibe made it clear that he was just made a scapegoat, while the real culprits were still in office and that, sadly, all the evidence which will support him has been destroyed! He also accused SAFA of withholding critical information from him.
“On the 3rd of November 2014, I was notified by FIFA that I would be subject to preliminary investigations and was implicated in match-fixing. I said I could not respond without the help of SAFA, but they refused. I requested access to documents in order to respond, which never happened.
“I refused to cooperate with the FIFA probe until I had unfettered access to the documents I requested. I have also never been interviewed by FIFA, therefore the FIFA investigation remains incomplete.
“I refused to co-operate with FIFA because they haven’t held a full investigation. They avoid the true culprits for fear of political reprisal. Those people are still sitting inside SAFA and the sad conclusion is that all evidence which will support me has been destroyed.
“Why did it take so long? Four years? Today FIFA make this announcement? They are refusing to give me access.
“There is a God in heaven. The art of justice takes time, but it always bends. If I spoke about the $10-million, I would have been a traitor.
“FIFA were never interested in the truth. They had to find a scapegoat. That scapegoat is Leslie Sedibe.”
The fact that SAFA welcomed the bans without even bothering to provide their former employees with the necessary support sends a rather worrying message. The fact that the accused claim not to have been given the right to defend themselves by the mother body gives credence to their claim that we have not been told the truth. Goddard is expected to release his own press release on exactly what happened as he seeks to clear his name. SAFA has to do the honourable thing and set the record straight regarding these allegations. If Sedibe’s version is anything to go by, surely our football is in a far worse state than we ever imagined. SAFA are duty-bound to explain to the masses exactly what happened and what role Football4U’s Wilson Perumal Raj played in the dealings at SAFA House? Incidentally, this is the same Perumal who was involved in the Assiagate match-fixing scandal…
South African football has been through a lot over the last couple of years and the last thing we need is uncertainty swirling around the body running our football. If we continue to be involved in scandalous acts like these, how can we expect people to pay their hard-earned money to attend Bafana Bafana games? Clearly it is not a coincidence that the national team’s support has dwindled over the last few years. If the match fixing allegations are true, who would want to pay for travel expenses, accommodation and costly tickets in order to enrich Perumal and his cronies, who are accused of lining their pockets by fixing matches at the supporters’ expense?
Following Sedibe’s ground-shaking revelations, SAFA owes us an explanation, and the sooner they do that, the better. Heads need to roll and Sports and Recreation minister, Fikile Mbalula, MUST demand answers on behalf of the South African people who have invested their trust in him and SAFA’s leadership.