Thursday, October 25, 2012

Asiagate - Corruption, the corrupt and the corrupted in football

In my book, The Anatomy of Football, one gets the feeling that exude the proper coaching mentality and the workout that the mind gets when getting down to the business of the football. The energy, resources and pride invested in the beautiful game results in total satisfaction when one draws a plan and dovetails a program whose results are there for all to see.

Building a culture of winning, a cutting edge of ruthlessness in front of goal while being very mean in defence epitomises the few elements that will comprise total football. Fans and supporters pay hard cash and waste precious time committing their emotions to be entertained by protagonists who turn out to be cheats.

If it is in Hong Kong and China, it matters less given that it is the home of Fong Kongs, but now we have manufactured our own original brands of FKs. It is from those shores anyway, where this rot start. It is in Harare that it was cultivated and pruned and it is from there that the contamination reverberated throughout the rest of the innocent country. 

What makes the Asiagate a boil in the grove of our football bottom is how much the local referees are perfecting the art. As the curtain is supposedly coming down on the football corruption scandals that dogged Zimbabwe for the last seven years or so, it is vital that you understand that the Far East betting syndicate paid players and officials to throw matches for their own benefits to the detriment of the fundamentals of the game, that is competing fairly and to the best of one's ability. 

That corruption has since been dubbed Asiagate, for those who do not know. It is a problem, a huge problem. Politically, Africa has no rivals when it comes to doing this bad business. Never before has anyone tapped into this African talent, until the Asians harnessed that rich vein with Zimbabwean football officials and players. If anybody doubted the Zimbabweans' talent on anything, this is one thing they did with great success. They plunged the game into endless and shameful darkness. They perfected match-fixing.

As we speak, it is said that eight players were absolved of any wrongdoing, while 13 have been handed life bans from all football activities, seven facing 10-year bans, 37 have been given five-year bans, 25 have also been given two year bans, two have been handed two-year suspended bans, six face one-year bans, two face one-year suspended bans and one player has been given a six-month ban. These are ZIFA sentences.

The guilty will probably receive heftier punishments, in some cases money wise as FIFA descends on the culprits. Players with lucrative contracts in South Africa and overseas are in deeper trouble. The clubs will feel the bite.

Justice Ahmed Ebrahim and ZIFA chairman Curthbert Dube have been trying to show how much effort was needed to wipe out all match-fixing activities that are taking place in the local league, but as we know, the game tasted good blood from the East since 2007 and asking them to vomit is a technical expectation. There has been numerous acknowledged and unconfirmed reports of referees colluding with teams to throw local matches, Highlanders being probably at the blunt end of the deals as you may know. 

Agent NG (Ndumiso Gumede) and Agent BM (Benedict Moyo) travelled the length and breadth of the country and continent on a mission impossible fishing for the truths. After all is said and done, it turned out that as good as money can be, it surely is the root of many evils. Having worked in Zimbabwean football years back, former Zifa and PSL president earned my respects when I travelled to Harare for the national football coaches association business. He appeared astute and upright with integrity. 

Like many other big names in the game, that crew for a long time being chaired by the football's most disgraced woman in former CEO, Henrietta Rushwaya, I can assure you that once tainted, always tainted. As Zifa are trying to bring to a close the Asi­agate, fresh allegations of those who escaped or those addicted to the crime will always perpetuate their tradition and legacy and they can be trusted to lick the fingers they dipped into the juicy sauce.

Zimbabwe dismally performed in the recent AFCON qualification against Angola. Many were silent before the match. There was hope that the Warriors would pull through given that 3-1 advantage taken from Rufaro Stadium, but as assistant coach Peter Ndlovu issued a passionate public apology to the nation, no one can say with all certainty that the technical team and the Warriors failed.

Again, which Warriors are we talking about? The ones whose names dominate the given list of corruption, the corrupt and the corrupted? This is not to hide from the fact that the double scorer in Angola is a huge name. In Manucho, even Sir Alex Ferguson is a fan, but if you have the officials and the protagonists who tasted blood, there is less logic in hunting for vampires elsewhere.

Let us look at the anatomy of the match-fixing involving a syndicate as what may have transpired. Betting syndicates collect cash from members of the public to predict matches. People get paid according to their predictions matches the actual results. The less people predict correctly, the more the profits the syndicates make. 

Take a boxing match, say Manny Pacciao fights Thamsanqa Ndlovu for $10 million. If bets total amount to double the figure, $20 million, there is more sense to both the Pucman and the syndicate, if Pacciao loses the match and pockets $15 million and the syndicate profits $5 million, than to have him win $10 million and the goon loses everything. That remains sweet until Agents NG and BM come after you. In some cases of match-fixing, syndicates kill each other. In others, there are jail terms. So far, the Asiagate troops are having it easy with bans from the game.

Asians knew less of football, following cricket more accurately and to some extent motor sport and boxing. Once one has a betting syndrome, they pay and can throw a match for anything, even on things they know less about. The platform for crime was made ripe by the financial woes during the time the Zimbabwe dollar was running hey way. Zimbabweans were easy prime targets.

The hypothetical conception of Asiagate was borne out of excellent identification of the niche market and the precise judgement by the Asians. They needed one person who loved money and had a bad judgement. All the CEO needed was to initiate a simple and innocent looking trip to the East just once. These syndicate-marketed matches popularised betting in football in Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East. A few thousands of dollars paid to one guy and then eventually the whole team, made easy money for the individuals and innocent families who will now live and suffer the consequences.

All this betting money paid and lumped together, will not be enough to afford the national team a decent camp for four weeks. The goons however made millions. It is however common knowledge how the country plunged down the FIFA rankings. It is now a bone of contention, the coaching abilities of Rahman Gumbo and Peter Ndlovu. After one is done with the scapegoats, it must dawn to those who wield power they are responsible for the team's performance as the custodians of the game in the country.

The most painful thing about this, is friends I have in the ring. If found on the wrong side of action, I could do with some sympathy here and there. Knowing how much it costs to do good football, and for the pains of the millions of the Warriors fans and the lovers of the game in general, please allow me to advocate for the clean game and join me in the war-cry made famous for the wrong reasons on the innocent.   

Crucify them, crucify them.

(Keutsepilemang Ndebele is a professional coach, a former Technical Advisor of Highlanders FC (2001), former coach and manager of Railstars FC between 1996 and 1999. He was a football coaches instructors for Levels 1 and 2. He owned 2 football teams (KFA in Div 2 and International Juveniles in Div 4) and an Academy (KFA) worked on junior development in the Southern Region with Under -17s. He is an author of  football books, including the Best Seller - The Anatomy of Football  available as e-books or ordered as hard copies on