Nigeria officials may face prolonged ban if found guilty of match fixing.
Nigeria has been implicated in yet another football match-fixing scandal, with the revelation that the friendly match between the Super Eagles and North Korea on the eve of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was doctored.
The allegation, published by the New York Times, opens a fresh can of worms in a series of claims that Nigeria has featured prominently for years in the dubious art match-rigging.
Nigeria won the friendly against the North Korean side by 3-1.
Besides the result, that match also grabbed the headlines over a stampede that occurred before the commencement of the exhibition game, as hundreds of South Africans and other fans trooped to the stadium to catch a glimpse of the Eagles.
It now turns out they were served a script worked out by a gambling syndicate.
The New York Times said South African officials allowed a notorious Singaporean syndicate, Football 4U, to pick the referee for that match.
Fixing games has serious profit implications for Asia’s largely unregulated but lucrative betting market.
Most fixed bets are placed on which team will win against the spread and on the total number of expected goals. By some estimates, the illegal betting market in Asia amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, the report said.
Quoting from FIFA investigative report, the New York Times said FIFA investigators found that the referee in the Nigeria-North Korea match made several questionable calls. But investigators could not confirm whether the referee was a rogue Nigerien referee, Ibrahim Chaibou.
The investigators said they were however certain that the referee who officiated was not the Portuguese who had been assigned.
Such replacements are part of the trick, and do happen in fixed games presumably without FIFA’s knowledge.
The referee took “a very harsh stance” in giving a red card for a seemingly lesser infraction, and he later took “a very liberal stance” in awarding a suspicious penalty kick, the report was quoted by the New York Times as saying.
Mr. Chaibou had his hands soiled in many other matches adjudged to have been fixed including the South Africa Vs Guatemala game in which South Africa won 5-0. The referee was said to have received $60, 000 for his role.
It was also Mr. Chaibou who officiated the Nigeria – Argentina friendly in Abuja, also adjudged to have been fixed as the Eagles triumphed 4-1.
It is not clear what role Nigerian officials played in fixing the North Korea match.
But in recent months, Nigeria has been mentioned as a beneficiary of fixed matches.
One notorious Singaporean gambler cum match fixer, Wilson Raj Pemural, said in a personal memoir published this year that he aided the Super Eagles qualify for the South Africa 2010 Mundial.
Mr. Pemural played significant role in all of the Times findings.
Even Nigeria’s friendly with Scotland last week which ended in a two goal draw is under investigation for suspected fixing.
Officials of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, have consistently denied all the allegations.