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Football: FIFA match-fixing investigators arrive in S.Africa

FIFA’s anti-corruption team on Thursday arrived in South Africa, as part of the world football governing body’s efforts to crack down on match-fixing, the South African Football Association said.

The team is led by Chris Eaton, FIFA’s head of security, who is investigating claims that more than 300 matches on three continents were influenced by match-fixers.

The team is expected to spend four days in South Africa, and SAFA said they would have full access to its records on four pre-2010 World Cup warm-up games that have been dogged by claims of match-fixing.

“We are doing all we can to help FIFA resolve the issue regarding the Bafana games and to do all in our power to wipe out corrupt practices in football in South Africa, if there is any,” said SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani.

“Anyone who has not already been contacted but who believes that they have material evidence to offer are invited to urgently contact my office,” added SAFA chief executive Robin Petersen.

South Africa’s Sunday Times reported this month on claims that matches involving Thailand, Bulgaria, Guatemala and Colombia may have been fixed by Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, who is serving a two-year jail term in Finland for fixing matches there. Perumal reportedly arranged the friendlies for South Africa on condition that he appoint the match officials as an under-prepared national squad desperately sought matches ahead of the global tournament.

A number of dubious penalties were awarded in the 5-0 win over Guatemala — a record victory margin for the South African national team — and a 2-1 triumph over Colombia.

Referees from Niger, Togo and Kenya handled the four warm-ups, which triggered surprise as South Africa normally use match officials from countries in the region.

The Sunday Times said the Nigerian referee was also scheduled to handle a friendly against Denmark, but concerned SAFA officials replaced him with a local at the last minute.