Africa needs more of­fi­cials like Gomes

CityPress - - Sport - Ti­mothy Molobi ti­mothy@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Tim­spir­itMolobi

Agroup of South African match of­fi­cials has sent out a strong mes­sage about their stance on cor­rup­tion.

Big ups to ref­eree Vic­tor Gomes, as­sis­tants Jo­hannes Moshidi and Athenkosi Ndon­geni, and fourth of­fi­cial Thando Ndzandzeka for turn­ing down a bribe to fix last week­end’s CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup game. Nige­ria’s Plateau United went on to beat Al­ge­ria’s USM Al­ger 2-1 fair and square.

Gomes and his team were of­fered $30 000 (R362 556) in cash ahead of the game, but re­fused to take the bribe. How­ever, while they de­serve to be com­mended for re­port­ing the mat­ter, we should also be care­ful not to praise fish for swim­ming.

It is their re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure matches are played fairly and that re­sults are not ma­nip­u­lated. Ei­ther way, we are grate­ful to them for up­hold­ing the moral stan­dards en­cour­aged by the SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa).

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Safa was quick to praise them.

Safa’s head of ref­er­ees Tenda Masikhwa said: “Our of­fi­cials showed the rest of the con­ti­nent and the world that they won’t tol­er­ate cor­rup­tion. We are proud of what they did. This is why South African ref­er­ees are re­spected and highly sought-af­ter.”

On the other hand, the ABC Mot­sepe League is rid­dled with al­le­ga­tions of match-fix­ing. Although Safa vowed to deal with the plague of cor­rup­tion in the lower di­vi­sion, the as­so­ci­a­tion has done lit­tle to make good on its prom­ise.

It is time for Safa bosses to put their money where their mouths are re­gard­ing match-fix­ing.

The third tier league is be­sieged with cor­rup­tion scan­dals and, un­til Safa does some­thing mean­ing­ful – like send peo­ple to jail or ban them for life – the fraud­u­lent con­duct will con­tinue un­abated.

If Safa is se­ri­ous about beat­ing cor­rup­tion, it needs to stop the lip ser­vice and act im­me­di­ately.

What’s even more sur­pris­ing is CAF’s si­lence. The con­ti­nen­tal foot­ball body has not said much since the mat­ter was re­ported.

Aside from promis­ing to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, CAF has not spo­ken about the in­ci­dent. What if noth­ing is done or the per­pe­tra­tors are not brought to book?

Although Gomes’ and his team’s con­duct was re­spectable, it might have been ca­reer sui­cide. Club of­fi­cials will be wary of ap­proach­ing them in fu­ture for fear of be­ing ex­posed. Gomes and his of­fi­cials might also be vic­timised for speak­ing out against the cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties that have been go­ing on for far too long in African foot­ball, and traps might be set to tar­nish their im­age.

From now on, all their de­ci­sions will be scru­ti­nised. Although they do not have any­thing to be afraid of, they must be care­ful not to get into any trou­ble. This is Africa and any­thing is pos­si­ble.

If noth­ing is done about this mat­ter, match of­fi­cials will be too scared to re­port any sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties in fu­ture.

I bet this is not the first time match of­fi­cials have been of­fered bribes. Why hasn’t any­thing been done about this? There are al­ways al­le­ga­tions of clubs of­fer­ing money to of­fi­cials in an at­tempt to sway matches in their favour. This is noth­ing new.

Where are the other match of­fi­cials who have been ap­proached? By com­ing out, Gomes and com­pany ran the risk of be­ing la­belled sell-outs.

It is com­mon knowl­edge that the rest of the con­ti­nent be­lieves South Africans think too highly of them­selves. Gomes’ and his team’s ac­tions could per­pet­u­ate this stereo­type, par­tic­u­larly among those who har­bour ill feel­ings to­wards the coun­try.

The onus is on foot­ball au­thor­i­ties to send a strong warn­ing to the per­pe­tra­tors. It is the first step to clean­ing up African foot­ball’s im­age.

The next prob­lem to tackle is age fraud, a form of cheat­ing that is wide­spread in foot­ball across the con­ti­nent.

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