HARARE — A Zimbabwean probe has recommended life bans for 13 national footballers and officials implicated in a 2009 match-fixing scam in Asia.
Although the probe team did not name the players and officials in their report released on Tuesday, it further recommended a 10-year ban for seven people, a five-year ban for 37, two-year bans for 25 people and one- to two-year bans for 10 players, while eight players were exonerated.
"Some officials and players will undoubtedly have their football futures ruined by these greedy, despicable, ruthless and unfeeling miscreants," said retired high court judge and investigating team head Ahmed Ebrahim after the 13 were found guilty.
"There is little doubt that these young players were carefully selected due to their inexperience, youth and immaturity."
Former Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya sent the national team to play unsanctioned friendlies in Thailand, Syria and Malaysia two years ago and a betting syndicate allegedly fixed the results. Rushwaya was later fired in 2010.
Ebrahim said the exact details of how the Zimbabwe teams were involved in the match-fixing and betting syndicate allegedly organised by a Singapore-based man named Wilson Raj Perumal may never be known — but he said those behind the scam were driven by greed.
"I don't subscribe to the view that the root cause of it is one of economic hardship," the former judge said.
"I believe the motivating factor is greed and the pursuit of making a quick buck."
ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said 80 players were involved in the scam. Some of the players including national team players Ovidy Karuru and Khama Billiat were cleared during the course of the probe.
Former national team coach Norman Mapeza, who was suspended last year, was among the officials implicated.
Two years ago the football association suspended three board members, including a former national team player and a former referee, over the scandal.
Zimbabwe are also under investigation by world football governing body FIFA. FIFA chief Sepp Blatter warned during a visit to Harare two years ago that players and officials found guilty in the ongoing probe would face life bans.