The Sunday News
Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
THE Confederation of African Football have said despite the red flags raised following the 2019 Afcon Group A game between Zimbabwe and the DRC, there is no suspicion of any corrupt acts in the game.
The continent’s football body, whose anti-corruption mechanisms are also backed by the Fifa Early Warning System which detect suspicious patterns in football, said there was no hint of corruption related to the game which the Warriors lost 0-4 to crash out of the tournament.
The announcement by Caf secretary-general, Mouad Hajji, at a media briefing here on Friday, effectively provides closure to a case that triggered a media hysteria across the continent and provoked an angry reaction from Zimbabweans on social media platforms.
The issue first emerged in a Madagascar newspaper, La Gazette de la Grande, which said it was drawing its report from an Egyptian media site, Al Sports Cairo, which — after investigations carried out last week — proved to be a non-existent news outlet in this country.
“The author of this article claimed to have taken the information from ‘Al Sports Cairo,’ a newspaper that is supposed to be Egyptian but a thorough verification has revealed that this newspaper does not exist,’’ the influential Ghanasoccernet website reported yesterday.
The Warriors reacted to the allegations, which implied goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze could have been bribed by wealthy Congolese businessman Moise Katumbi, by challenging those who were making the claims to provide evidence, which could be sourced by the network of security cameras at the hotel they were staying, or simply to shut up.
Katumbi, who is the owner of five-time African champions TP Mazembe, also rebuffed the allegations in a strongly-worded letter sent by his Belgian lawyers to Caf, and said contrary to the reports that the businessman was in Cairo on the eve of the match, and visited the Warriors’ hotel, he was actually in Belgium.
The La Gazette de la Grande reports had claimed Caf had launched investigations and their emergency committee was holding an emergency meeting, which could result in the Congolese being booted out of the tournament.
However, Caf — who insisted they had zero tolerance on corruption — have now pronounced their position through their secretary-general, Hajji.
Hajji addressed the world media on Friday to discuss this and other issues related to the 2019 Afcon finals.
“At the level of the Caf, there is no suspicion,” the Moroccan told the media at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday.
“There is no hint of corruption about the Zimbabwe-DRC match in the third Group A match played on June 30, in Cairo.
“But, if it turned out that there was anything, and not only for this match, I remind you that our policy is a zero tolerance policy on corruption. As of today, there is no correspondence or issue.”
Caf also released a statement on their official website yesterday.
They also said contrary to the reports that they were investigating the game, “we haven’t received any communication regarding the DR Congo versus Zimbabwe match.’’
DRC will take on Madagascar in a Round of 16 match in Alexandria tonight and Caf unveiled their training programme on Thursday and also released a digital promotion of the match in yet another demonstration that they were not investigating the Congolese.
On Friday, Katumbi said the allegations that he bribed Chipezeze to influence the outcome of the match were false, ridiculous and a work of fiction created by the Madagascan newspaper.
His Belgian lawyers, Altius, provided Caf with evidence, including a copy of his passport, to show that he wasn’t in Egypt — as alleged by Madagascar newspaper La Gazette de la Grande — at the time he was alleged to have orchestrated the shady deal.
The businessman said while he attended the 2019 Afcon opening ceremony, at the invitation of Caf, and went on to watch the match between the DRC and Uganda, he flew back to Belgium on the very day the Congolese lost to the Cranes 0-2, a day after the tournament started.