How football games are fixed
- Written by OUR REPORTER
On March 10, Kenyan police arrested suspected football match-fixers in Nairobi in a trap set up by Kenya Football Federation officials.
An undercover Citizen Television crew filmed the whole episode. Three suspects, who included a Ugandan Bernard Navendi, a Kenyan Martin Munga Mutua and a Russian Akhiad Kubiev, were apprehended as they plotted to fix a Kenyan League game between Sofapaka FC and Nairobi City Stars.
The clip, which has since gone viral on social media, shows match-fixers offering huge sums of money in a well-coordinated scheme involving players, coaches, and officials in the game. In this case, Kubiev offered to pay 10 City players as much as $14,000 (approximately Shs 52 million) if they scored two goals in the first minutes of the game.
The Russian also offered an additional $11,000 for conceding two goals in the last 15 minutes of the match. To execute the plan, match-fixers normally send their agents in the stadium where they keep in touch with officials on the bench and players on the field. The fixers’ agents send the signals.
“You will get two signals, first ‘confirmation’ and ‘finish,” and then the last 15 minutes stick to the signal.” Kubiev’s voice is heard giving disjointed orders.
“Between signals... Do not score or concede... If you score after the second signal, then concede two goals. Kubiev seemed to be rooting for a 2-2 draw. Two goals scored in the first 15 minutes and two goals in the last quarter of the game.
He warned that if the players don’t follow the game plan and make mistakes, they don’t get paid. The graphic detail of their disingenuous scheme shows how money can destroy sport and everything associated with fair competition and integrity in the beautiful game.
This is just one of the incidents that have been rife not only in Kenya but also in many other countries, including Uganda, and around Africa.
The Observer can reveal that the events that transpired in the Nairobi area of Roysambu are not any different from the match manipulation that is threatening to destroy the integrity of the Ugandan Premier League and the Fufa Big League. It has been a public secret that matches have been fixed in the Ugandan game, except that here it has proven difficult so far to find sufficient evidence to pin the suspects who have been thriving in a porous system.
The biggest challenge is the poor welfare of footballers in the country, which has made them very vulnerable. When a player goes six months without pay, it becomes very easy for him to be compromised because, ultimately, he has the same life demands as every other member of society.
A footballer once told this reporter that it would be almost impossible for him to decline cash advances from a match fixer when he has school fees to pay in addition to rent, food, and utility bills. Five years ago, a senior sports journalist told a story of how he received a telephone call from Germany to help fix the results of matches involving KCCA, SC Villa, Express and Vipers.
The senior sports journalist declined the offer and hung up. He had been promised a cut of US$50,000. And last season, the same journalist was appalled when he received a phone call from Ukraine. The caller asked why the controversial Onduparaka- KCCA match was not ending.
He couldn’t get his head around the puzzle of why a Ukrainian would be interested in a result between two Ugandan clubs somewhere in Arua. The Citizen TV exposé may help us burst the racket of criminals doing the same in Uganda. And considering that one of the three arrested was a Ugandan, Navendi, it is extremely unlikely that that group does not have agents with a fully functional network in Uganda.
Like Kenya, Ugandan laws are still silent on match-fixing, but that is about to change if the new sports bill eventually becomes law. It extensively spells out the penalties for characters who will use money to destroy sports and enhance their rings of fixers.
At an International Sports Press Association symposium, which this writer attended in Seoul, South Korea, the dangers of match-fixing in sports were the theme topic, and one of the areas that was highlighted was the correlation between money laundering and the manipulation of results in sports.
Coincidentally, last Monday, Fufa president Moses Magogo addressed a press conference at the federation’s offices in Mengo where he announced a Fifa-backed campaign that would be the beginning of the end of predetermined results in Fufa- sanctioned football across all levels in the country.
“We are here to say that whoever has information on an individual or individuals who are planning to, or are already doing so, do not hesitate to contact this line, telephone number 0787063409, for information that will help us in keeping the game clean from rogue elements.
“We are saying that we shall protect the identity of any person who offers to share this information because, ultimately, we want to protect and preserve the game of football. The world governing body is clear on match-fixing and its dangers, and as the local governing body for football, we shall go every length to attain a clean and healthy environment for competition that is free of individuals who want to tarnish the integrity of football.
“As we move towards having in place a law on match-fixing, it is possible that some of the individuals found guilty could be banned for life. These could be players, coaches, referees, club officials, and even journalists if they are found to have taken part in destroying the game by either withholding information or playing a central role in the act of match-fixing.”
Magogo revealed that Fufa was engaging their Kenyan counterparts for information about Navendi and the intricate methods that are being used by characters of his ilk for financial gain at the expense of the game’s purity.
“We are aware of the arrests that happened across the border, and we are going to get as much information from them as possible because it is most likely that those suspects are not working in isolation there; it is very possible and likely that they have elements here with whom they are collaborating.”
Match-fixing is usually done at several levels, according to the sources The Observer has engaged. Fixers can contact match officials and offer them hefty sums to make sure they deliver a certain score or number of goals either in one half or over 90 minutes. Match-fixing has ceased being about only scorelines; it has evolved into spot-fixing, where details like red cards and bookings are also part of what is being determined.
Fixers can also contact a particular set of individuals and offer them part payments to leak in goals or connive and conspire to play below standards to achieve certain results. Ugandan coaches Sam Ssimbwa and Paul Nkata have previously been implicated in match-fixing scandals in Uganda and Kenya, respectively.
Former Nyamityobora boss Ali Ssekatawa gave up ownership of the club after he revealed that he couldn’t continue funding a football club whose players were using their licenses to engage in match-fixing for their own selfish gains.
Clubs like URA and Police FC have in recent years suspended and dismissed players over match-fixing allegations. In 2016, Police FC dismissed team captain Godfrey Kateregga and his vice, Saddat Kyambadde. Last year, the Fufa Ethics and Disciplinary Committee banned referee John Bosco Kalibbala from taking part in any kind of football-related activity after he was found guilty of influencing league matches between Tooro and the UPDF and Gaddafi and Onduparaka.
Magogo reiterated the federation’s zero tolerance for match manipulation and warned that the heavy sanctions will serve as a deterrent to other individuals who pose a threat to the tenets of sport. Fufa, he said, are to embark on a sensitization campaign to remind players and teams across all divisions and competitions of their obligations to the game of football.
Fufa’s declaration to come down hard on the matter will no doubt be embraced in most football quarters but cynics wonder why the federation did not release findings of its last probe into match-fixing.
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