By Ricky Zililo
Black Rhinos FC are livid over the Zifa appeals committee’s ruling to overturn the Premier Soccer League’s disciplinary committee’s decision to dock three points from Herentals and fine The Students for match-fixing.
The PSL disciplinary committee found Herentals guilty of match manipulation, ruling that the points Herentals gained from a 3-0 “thumping” of Rhinos be forfeited and slapped them with a $300 000 fine.
Herentals team manager Oliver Chirenga, the alleged “mastermind” of the match-fixing scandal, was handed a 10-year ban from all football activities and also fined $20 000.
However, the Zifa appeals committee led by Stead Kachere overturned the PSL’s ruling and acquitted Herentals of all charges.
Rhinos accused Zifa of compromising the case by accepting gifts from Herentals.
“The writing has always been on the wall because they (Herentals) had managed to manipulate the Zifa system by assisting the association. Remember their ‘timely’ donation to Zifa for the girls’ national Under-17 World Cup qualifier against Botswana in January?
“Obviously after those donations, it became clear that we can’t expect Zifa to give judgment that is against Herentals,” said Rhinos’ secretary-general Edward Mutukwa.
“What is clear from this ruling is that football is no longer football. One with money can do anything and money can be used to influence the system. Going forward, everyone will be cautious because it’s highly likely that we will be going to the stadium to watch “delayed” games in the sense that the outcome of the match would have long been decided.”
Mutukwa attacked Zifa for failing to act decisively to send a clear message that match-manipulation will not be tolerated.
“They (Zifa) have thrown integrity into the drain,” Mutukwa fumed.
Four days before the PSL disciplinary committee’s judgment in January, Herentals funded the girls’ national Under-17 camping fees, provided food and offered $500 to each player as match appearance fees and scholarships for all the girls in camp.
Herentals also donated towards the ongoing refurbishment of Barbourfields Stadium to meet minimum international standards after Caf banned the venue from hosting international games for falling short of the continental body’s requirements.
The donations might have been in “good” faith, but its timing raised eyebrows, with some accusing Herentals of “bribing” Zifa because they went on to appeal the PSL disciplinary committee’s guilty verdict to the national association they had just bailed out.
Rhinos are baffled how Herentals escaped the hangman’s noose in the wake of evidence produced by their former team manager Gift Kamuriwo, who lost his job after confessing to taking US$600 from the Students.
Kamuriwo said he was given the money by Chirenga to give to certain Rhinos players.
After investigations, Kamuriwo presented US$300 to his club’s principals, saying it was the remainder of the money Chirenga had given him.
The PSL disciplinary committee found Kamuriwo guilty and slapped him with a three-year ban.
Mutukwa suspects underhand dealings in the “disappearance” of another key witness, their player Gift Saunyama, who raised the red flag when Chirenga reportedly made overtures to bribe him before the Rhinos versus Herentals match.
Saunyama has since stopped attending Rhinos’ training sessions.
“Look, I’m not saying he (Saunyama) was given money to miss the hearings as a key witness, but you get worried when a player suddenly comes up and says I can’t come to training and I want a break from football when he is left with a one-year contract.
“Remember, one of the things raised is that Saunyama, as a key witness, failed to attend the hearing. Now, here is a player who survives by playing football, was a key witness in this case and out of the blue says he wants a break,” Mutukwa said. The Chronicle