Sunday, 27 March 2016

RESPECT FOR HLOMPHO KEKANA... and another chance for Bafana to restore South Africa's pride

MARK GLEESON, a man who knows something about South African football, described it as “the best goal Bafana Bafana have ever scored.”

I took the 2m tall SuperSport commentator to his first professional football game as a journalist in 1985 in Durban - at Glebelands in Umlazi. We’ve seen a lot of goals, but Hlompho Kekana’s 65m effort against Cameroon deserved to win ANY game.

Sadly, it didn’t. Cameroon came back from Tokelo Rantie’s excellent early strike in Limbe and then, after the shock of Kekana’s wonder goal, they did it again to ensure the Lions remain Indomitable at home.

The strike...
Tonight at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Shakes Mashaba’s men - the first side to take points off Cameroon in Group M - get another chance to save some pride in what has been a disastrous AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign.

Two points from three games - after a home draw against little Gambia and that awful defeat in Mauritania - means qualification for Gabon next year is highly unlikely.

But a win tonight might just open the door a crack, assuming both Cameroon (seven points) and Mauritania (six points) slip up badly on the run in. Only the Group M leaders qualify for AFCON 2017 - along with the best two runners-up out of 13.

Even if they win ALL of their last three qualifiers, Bafana can only reach 11 points. Like their cricketing cousins, South Africa’s footballers appear to have choked in what looked a reasonable qualifying group.

Kekana himself, picked by Gordon Igesund for the national team in the 0-0 draw against New Zealand two years ago, refuses to be downhearted as videos of his Beckhamesque goal flash around the globe.

He says: “We should not be where we are at the moment. We know how important the points are in this group and if we have to start collecting them.

...the goal...
“The Durban match a very crucial one. A win there will enhance our chances and we know we are very capable of doing that, we just need to apply ourselves a little better and try to minimise mistakes.”

Of THAT goal, Kekana grins:  “I always check how the keeper leaves his line when they are attacking. This started at Sundowns training four months back.

“After we dispossesed Cameroon I looked up and saw the keeper well off his line and I took a chance, thankfully it went in.

“I was very excited - I’ve been trying to score goals like that at Sundowns but I couldn’t. At training I would hit more than ten balls with none going in and it was frustrating.

“But when the goals come in a match of the calibre against Cameroon it always bring joy – and not only to me but to my teammates and the entire country which shows just how much the goals means to everyone, not just to me. So this goal is for them.

...the celebration
"Saturday in Limbe was a very tactical match; both teams had an attacking mind. It’s a game we thought we will win but it wasn’t to be.

"We gave away the lead too easily but then again a point away from home is also welcome, but we know we could have done better. But hey this is Cameroon we are talking about here; few teams can achieve what we have done.

"We really have to win on Tuesday night, we have no more options left as we are left with nine points to play for seeing that we only have two after three matches. Three points will take us closer to the leaders with two matches remaining and we have to fight. I believe in this team and still think that we stand a chance of going to Gabon."

With any luck Kekaha can produce another wonder goal tonight. And Tokelo Rantie showed on Saturday he can score in Africa despite being ejected from Bournemouth's Premier League squad.

Three points won’t solve Mashaba’s problems but it will certainly go some way towards restoring South Africa’s footballing pride.

Monday, 14 March 2016

REVEALED: The SAFA letter from Wilson Raj Perumal, master match-fixer. Not sent to Leslie Sedibe but to Kirsten Nematandani

EXCLUSIVE: This is the letter now-banned former SAFA CEO Leslie Sedibe
was waving about at his press conference today. His name does not appear. But
former SAFA President Kirsten Nematandani and Wilson Raj Perumal ARE there

EXCLUSIVE: original notes from Leslie Sedibe's FIFA interview, mentioned today
He says SAFA was dysfunctional. And that Bafana Bafana had no money or plans
for preparation. Here's what it goes on to say:
He found that with the 2010 World cup looming Bafana Bafana had no established training camp and all the main locations had been taken, the team had no warm up friendlies booked and they were running out of time to get them as most teams in the tournament had booked the best opposition already.
Mr. Sedibe went on to say that SAFA had no money at this time and few major sponsors even though they were hosting the world cup.
He felt he needed to concentrate on fund raising for training camps and bringing in sponsors.
Mr. Sedibe recalled that early in March games had been hastily arranged against Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
He said the bank had funded the training camp in Brazil as the Association had no money and that the team had mainly played club sides. The coach did not view this as ideal preparation for a World cup and requested another camp and against International competition, preferably against South American teams in preparation for Mexico who was to be Bafana Bafana’s opposition in the first stage of the WC.
The coach wanted a match that would be against opposition with a similar playing style and Mr. Sedibe agreed they should try to find a team that would be good opposition from South America but it proved to be quite difficult.
The team held a camp in Germany and had a game against China prepared but China pulled out at the last minute and the camp in Germany was not ideal preparation. The Team manager was deemed to be negligent and charges were listed against him. The team manager had also failed to provide a budget for the training camp after numerous requests to do so by Mr. Sedibe and the head of finance Mr. Gronie Hluyo. The team manager was removed from the training camp and pulled off the flight to Germany.
There were a number of issues Mr. Sedibe had to deal with in respect of this camp. There was no branding, matches were cancelled without notice by Bafana Bafana causing embarrassment to the sponsors Addidas who had acted to secure the team friendly matches at the last minute.
Mr. Sedibe called in Keith Darcy of KAM, a sports management company based in the UK to assist in recovering the training camp. Friendlies were arranged against Korea DPR and Jamaica.
Other international sides such as Italy, Brazil and Argentina were approached but they already had full warm up schedules.
The next camp was held in Johannesburg and again it was poor quality. Mr. Sedibe had managed to secure some funding from the Lotteries board at this time to ease the financial burden on the association but they were still in dire financial straits.
It was at this point that the approach to provide referees was made by football 4 U. The association was struggling for funding even with some money coming in from the lotteries board, the organization itself was dysfunctional and Mr. Sedibe spent most of his time away from the office working on sponsors and other revenue streams.
Mr. Sedibe did not remember Ace Kika or Steve Goddard bringing anyone to his office to discuss Football 4U, but he did not rule it out. He said it was entirely plausible but added that he would have seen any number of people and contracts through out a working day at that time, with the World cup countdown well and truly in progress.

Oh, and here's SAFA's response to the banning of Sedibe, Adeel Carelse and Steve Goddard in an official statement tonight, from Poobalan Govindsasamy, head of their Ethics Committee:

“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."

Govindsasamy, when challenged by Robert Marawa later, admitted he had no documents on the latest bannings and insisted he was NOT a paid official at SAFA. He claimed not to have been properly briefed by SAFA on the match-fixing affair. Shocking.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

MATCH-FIXING IN ITS PUREST FORM: why Zimbabwe's scandal will create waves in South Africa

IMPLICATED: former Swallows coach Ian Gorowa
SOMEWHERE in Zimbabwe this morning, there is a bloke called “Ben” who must be a very frightened man.

Ben is the only name we have for the “whistle-blower” who has lifted the lid on the latest Zimbabwean match-fixing scandal, revealing a web of deceit which reaches deep in to South Africa’s PSL.

At least seven players at four South African clubs were offered payments in February this year. As far as we know, none of those approaches were reported to SAFA.

So what do we know about Ben? We know he gets on well with lots of professional footballers north of the Limpopo River. He’s probably a former professional footballer, and might have reached the lower ranks of agents and coaches.

We also know, thanks to the remarkable tales run in the Zimbabwe Herald this week, that “Ben” is well connected with ZIFA officials who are no strangers to such shady shenanigans.

There are other names too. A South Africa-based Italian (who may look Asian) called “Chief”, who is reputed to be related to the legendary match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal from Singapore. I believe this man is a former South African agent with links to the rapidly disappearing giant Moroka Swallows.

Then there’s former ZIFA chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya (“Mutha” in match-fixing circles), former Moroka Swallows coach Ian Gorowa (“Ian” who was also a caretaker manager at Mamelodi Sundowns) and the infamous Edzai Kasinauyo (“Kazma") who used to play for Swallows and Ajax Cape Town.

The named players? George Chigova, the Polokwane City goalkeeper who just last month won Man of the Match against Kaizer Chiefs.

Chigova was allegedly paid $15 000 and Polokwane defensive midfielder Lebogang Motumi got $10 000 in a deal to lose against Bidvest Wits, currently second in the PSL. On January 22, Rise and Shine - having beaten SuperSport United 4-1 the previous weekend - lost 5-0 to the Clever Boys with James Keene scoring a hat-trick.

AmaTuks goalkeeper Washington Arubi is named too, though he vehemently refused to take money off “Ben” and “nearly assaulted” the whistle-blower.

However the approach - apparently including team-mate Partson Jaure - was never made public.

Bloemfontein Celtic ‘keeper Patrick Tignyemb and defensive midfielder Lansthene Phalane are also implicated, which might help to explain Siwelele’s worrying slide down the PSL table.

There is also mention of Chippa United defender Mbuyiselo Sambo, who apparently agreed to help lose a game against Free State Stars.

This is not rumour-mongering. Zimbabwean police have evidence of $400 000 payments made to a South African bank account, they have SMS and WhatsApp messages between the fixers.

From the makers of AsiaGate, when copies of the Zimbabwe team-list were routinely burned and players - still unpunished - contrived to lose all over the world, there is little doubt the sequel is far more serious for South Africa.

But my tweets about this affair have been ignored by SAFA and the PSL, not to mention their talkative Communications Directors Dominic Chimhavi and Luxulo September, the man who continues to deny us crowd figures for games in South Africa.

Mlungisi Ncame apparently travelled to Harare last week to view the evidence pertaining to the PSL. He’s SAFA’s “Head of Security” though we have not heard a word from an organisation run by President Danny Jordaan, who doubles up as major of Port Elizabeth these days.

Clearly, this is serious. Some kind of response should emenate from SAFA House or Parktown. Just look at this extract from "Ben" in his statement to ZIFA: 

“I eventually met Rushwaya at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton. She was with three men of Asian extraction, one of them called “Chief” who lives in South Africa.

“Rushwaya said she wanted to start a sports betting business focusing mainly on the South African ABSA Premier League and the Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League.

“She wanted to employ me because of my close association with Zimbabwean footballers based inside and outside South Africa. I was to distribute cash payments to footballers to compromising their performance for the benefit of the betting cartels.

“The first footballer I approached (Feb 2, 2016) was Washington Arubi who currently plays for University of Pretoria in South Africa with a view to persuade him to compromise his performance in the forthcoming match against Free State Stars.

“Upon broaching the subject with him he vehemently refused and even threatened to assault me. He then immediately reported me to (goalkeeping coach) Tendai Tanyanyiwa who threatened to call the police. I only escaped by fleeing the scene.

“I’m in possession of WhatsApp Messenger text messages which I exchanged with Rushwaya following the rejection of our offer by Arubi. I attach, hereto, a copy of those text messages as Annexure ‘A1-A-6’.

“At all material times I was liaising with and co-ordinating my role with Edzai who, after my escape from University of Pretoria, contacted me (Feb 4, 2016) through mobile number +27725702427 by sending a text message at 11:19 hours demanding the return of the money I had been given to give to Washington Arubi.

“Further I communicated with Edzai (Feb 17, 2016) on the same number after he had directed me to a meeting which was to be attended by Ian Gorowa.

“He assured me that Ian was very knowledgeable of match-fixing and had a relationship with many players since 1996.”

There is much discussion about fixing the upcoming AFCON qualifiers between Zimbabwe and Swaziland: “It was agreed that the first player to be approached would be Tatenda Mukuruva.

“We convened another meeting (in Sandton, Feb 29, 2016) which was attended by Rushwaya, Gorowa, ‘Chief’, Edzai and myself. Gorowa indicated that we target Mukuruva the goalkeeper.

“We had three players who were supposed to ensure that Zimbabwe would lose by a two-goal margin. In the event that Zimbabwe scored, the compromised players had to ensure that Zimbabwe lost 3-1 with an obligation to concede a penalty and receive a red card.”

It’s a statement that cannot be disputed. Match-fixing in its purest form. We wait SAFA’s response with some trepidation.

If you wish to use this story in your publication, please credit me and link to @nealcol on twitter. No charge.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

SIMPLY NDORABLE: How Tendai finally grabbed his chance with a Soweto Derby double

Ndoro shows off the style... and the Man
of the match Nedbank Green Jacket
TENDAI NDORO. Talk of the town. Two goals to win Saturday's Soweto Derby. Did it come as a surprise? Hope not, I've been talking about him for months.

Right at the start of the season, when the 27-year-old Zimbabwean striker appeared in Orlando Pirates gear for the first time, you could see the exuberance in the man from Harare, his natural knack of challenging defenders, finding the target.

It wasn’t surprising. Ndoro scored seven for Mpumalanga’s Black Aces in his first six months in 2014, I remember one night wishing out loud on Twitter that he would somehow stumble across a South African passport and help solve the Bafana Bafana striker crisis.

When Mamelodi Sundowns and Pirates showed interest, Tendai - full name Takudzwa - might have been bewildered by his agent claiming English Premier League club Crystal Palace were interested. But he really did look that good.

A deal with Pirates finally emerged at the start of the season - Aces claimed he had another year to run on his contract but he found himself training with the Buccaneers by the time the season got underway.

Yet Ndoro found himself low down in the pecking order under Eric Tinkler. For months he watched as Kermit Erasmus, Thami Gabuza and Lehlohonolo Majoro took their places up front with varying levels of mediocrity.

At the time, with Pirates struggling in the lower half of the PSL, Ndoro said: “Talking about leaving Pirates in search of game time is something that is not in my vocabulary.” But you knew, in your heart, it wasn’t right.

I mentioned Ndoro’s life in limbo several times on Twitter. Nobody said much. But when Erasmus, claiming he was off to see the in-laws in Holland, signed for Rennes in France, Ndoro finally found himself taking a quick-step up the ladder.

Tinkler had little choice but to pick him as Gabuza self-destructed in front of goal and suddenly the cushion was discarded for the scoring boots. The games - and the goals - began to flow.

In the build-up to the Nedbank Cup Soweto Derby clash on Saturday, many were debating who should start up front. I said Ndoro was the obvious choice, though many felt Gabuza and Majoro were more likely.

Then God - the beardy guy who sometimes still brings out the old leather football boots - took a hand. Majoro did his hamstring in training and Ndoro secured his place.

He had a half-chance early on, then Kaizer Chiefs took over and hope began to fade. For 77 minutes, we suffered out way through the usual Soweto Derby boredom with an unusually sparse crowd.

Until the 77th minute. Mpho Makola put through a lovely ball which split the AmaKhosi’s makeshift defence. Good ball, but bouncing awkwardly. Ndoro brought it down in an instant, and to general hysteria, lashed the first goal past Reyaad Pieterse.

Five minutes later, he was at it again, banging in a laid-off free-kick low past Pieterse, bouncing in to the far corner. GAME OVER, though Ndoro produced a final curling shot just beyond the angle as he chased the fabled Soweto Derby hat-trick.

Afterwards, crowned Man of the Match with a hair-style he admits takes three hours to compose, Ndoro oozed: “That was my first Soweto Derby and I got two goals. That’s something you have to admire! I want to continue doing that, and not just in the derbies.

“Second half we wanted that one goal and we got it. That goal boosted us and helped us to get another one. I was pleased with it. Control, shoot, score.”

Tinkler explained Ndoro’s long-term exclusion by saying: “Tendai’s work-rate needed to increase. We’re a team in which everybody needs to work, and we can see he is doing that now.”

Then: “The way he expresses himself is important. We know Tendai has great ability in front of goal, when he gets the opportunity he must shoot because we know that nine out of 10 times he will hit the back of the net.”

Which rather begs the question: why didn’t we see more of him earlier in the season?