ZURICH, March 14, (Agencies): FIFA says it has canceled Kuwait’s two scheduled World Cup qualifying matches this month and opened a disciplinary case against the country’s soccer federation. Kuwait has been suspended by FIFA since October because of government interference in how the federation is run.
The national team also failed to play a previous World Cup qualifier in November. That match was forfeited as a 3-0 win for Myanmar. Kuwait was scheduled to play Laos on March 24 and complete its program against group leader South Korea five days later.
FIFA says it told the federations involved that the matches “cannot take place as things stand.” Kuwait faces forfeiting both matches and being fined. Kuwait are second in qualifying Group G, eight points behind South Korea.
Meanwhile, FIFA banned three more former South African Football Association officials on Monday over match-fixing in friendly games ahead of the country’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup. Former SAFA chief executive Leslie Sedibe was banned for five years and fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,200). The governing body also banned Steve Goddard and Adeel Carelse, both former officials at SAFA’s referees department, for two years each.
Last year, Lindile Kika, SAFA’s head of national teams in 2010, was banned from all soccer activities for six years. FIFA believes that at least one of the South African national team’s friendly games in the weeks ahead of the continent’s first World Cup was fixed by the referee. SAFA officials were under investigation for allowing a company controlled by Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal to appoint the referees for the games.
FIFA hasn’t identified the game or games in question, but South Africa’s 2-1 win over Colombia and 5-0 win over Guatemala a couple of weeks before the opening of the World Cup are under suspicion. All three goals in the South Africa-Colombia game came through penalty kicks. There was a collection of bizarre refereeing decisions in the South Africa-Guatemala game.
South Africa-Guatemala was refereed by Niger official Ibrahim Chaibou, who is being sought for involvement in other allegedly fixed games. South Africa’s game with Colombia, and an earlier 4-0 win over Thailand in another pre-World Cup friendly, were both refereed by Langat Kipngetich of Kenya.
It is believed that some SAFA officials eventually suspected what was happening and prevented Perumal’s referees from taking control of later World Cup warm-up games.
The South African officials banned Monday by FIFA were all found guilty of misconduct and breaching rules relating to reporting wrongdoing and cooperating with investigations. Sedibe, a high-profile figure in South Africa, is now the chief executive of Proudly South African, a company which promotes South African goods and services.
SAFA said it “welcomes” the latest sanctions. The fixing in the pre-World Cup friendlies has long been ignored by South African authorities, with no meaningful investigation into the allegations despite promises made four years ago. Then, a series of SAFA officials, including the president at the time, were suspended pending a probe but no results have been announced. Match-fixing is a criminal offense in South Africa.
The fixing bans further overshadow Africa’s first World Cup, which was undermined more recently by allegations of bribery in the bidding process that won the tournament for South Africa. U.S. investigators looking at widespread corruption at FIFA believe that South Africa used $10 million of its World Cup preparations budget to pay off now-disgraced former FIFA executives for voting for it to be the host.
Two unnamed but “senior” South African soccer officials have been implicated in the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment for allegedly organizing the bribes.