|HARARE BOYS: Zimbabwe national team players|
National team players alleged to have taken bribes to throw matches played in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
The country's sports minister said football was "riddled with corruption", and called for politics to be rooted out of the sport.The players, including leading members of the national team, are alleged to have taken bribes to throw friendly matches between 2007 and 2009.The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has set up an independent ethics committee to investigate the alleged fixing, which it believes took place when the national team played in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
|NOT YET UNITED:Zimbabwe flag|
The games were not part of any competition. In fact, it is now suspected they were arranged specifically for the purpose of betting. The scandal has been dubbed "Asiagate" by the Zimbabwean press.Jonathan Mashingaidze, chief executive of Zifa, told the state-owned Herald newspaper: "Every player who was mentioned in the 'Asiagate' report, regardless of how many matches played, are suspended and will only be cleared by the ethics committee and, for now, they are not eligible for selection in any national duty commitments.
"We are saying everyone involved in Asiagate should step aside until the case has been finalised. There shouldn't be favouritism. We are not convicting them and we are not saying clubs should convict them as yet."Obviously this will affect Zimbabwe's performance in the short term but football has been riddled with corruption and that must be one of reasons why we haven't performed as well as we should."
The player suspensions are likely to affect Zimbabwe's bid to qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Matches started in February, with Zimbabwe looking to lead the group to qualify.
The Herald reported that the 80 blacklisted players include:
- Ovidy Karuru
- Zhaimu Jambo
- Washington Arubi
- Daniel Vheremu
- Khama Billiat
- Gilbert Mapemba
- Willard Katsande
- Thomas Sweswe
- Method Mwanjali and Edward Sadomba.
The players are dispersed around the world. They can continue playing club football although a ban could be imposed by Fifa if they are found guilty by Zifa's ethics committee.Zimbabwe is already under investigation by the world football governing body.Its chief executive, Sepp Blatter, warned during a visit to Harare last year that players and officials found guilty of graft would face life bans.
It's sad for the players involved because they were just pawns in a wider political game. This is what happens when football and politics collide in a corrupt, autocratic regime.