Match Fixing: Another Nation Threatened by Corruption and a Dodgy Referee

Neal CollinsAnalyst IJune 29, 2011

Paying the penalty: Katlego Mphela celebrates his spot kick success against Guatemala last year
Paying the penalty: Katlego Mphela celebrates his spot kick success against Guatemala last yearGallo Images/Getty Images

Ibrahim Chaibou. Not a name you might instantly recognise, but one worth remembering as the latest round of FIFA match-fixing allegations rocks football.

With Greece, Finland, South Korea and even Sumo wrestling in Japan under scrutiny, FIFA have now turned their gaze to a couple of bizarre games in the build-up to last year’s World Cup in South Africa.

A strange but clearly powerful man, short in stature but big on lip, was ordering people about. I chatted to him. He told me he was the “agent” for the game. Bodyguards surrounded him. He told me how he organised such friendlies, sorted things out (for a reasonable fee, I imagine)...before driving off to the ground looking suitably self-important.

The Holiday Inn was chaotic, filled with journalists, fans, officials, players, ex-players and, unless I’m very much mistaken, the referee that night, a man called Ibrahim Chaibou, flown in from Niger.

A couple of hours later, Mr Chaibou saw fit to award two penalties to South Africa, both for handball. The first, after just 12 minutes, was a travesty. Katlego “Killer” Mphela stuck both spot kicks away. Job done.

At the time, I saw both the Colombian and Guatemalan wins (and the subsequent 2-0 win over highly-ranked Demark in Atteridgeville) as perfect preparation for the World Cup for the hosts, who started the tournament on a run of 12 unbeaten internationals.

Sure, the refereeing was a little generous, but hey, Guatemala had just suffered a series of earthquakes and their players didn’t look too bothered about the result or the refereeing.

First, as they opened the World Cup final venue at Soccer City, Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys) beat Colombia 2-1 on May 27, 2010.

Amid the blaring vuvuzelas, Kenyan referee Langat Kipngetich saw fit to award two penalties—one of them distinctly dodgy—to South Africa that day, leaving the Latin Americans a little irked. I seem to recall Colombia coach Hernan Dario Gomez getting quite angry about it.

Four days later, I drove up the N1 motorway through a forest of toll booths to the brand new Peter Mokabe stadium in Polokwane (once known as Pietersburg) to see Bafana Bafana take on Guatemala.

Though BafBaf were ranked 92 at the time (a record low for a World Cup host nation), they contrived to win 5-0, their best-ever international scoreline. Great boost for an anxious nation that as I said when I filed this video.