Match fixing: Threat to integrity of football in Africa

The game of football in the world has been ravaged by a dangerous ailment – match fixing ‑ so brutal that it threatens the fabric of the most popular and beautiful sport.
If left unchecked, this treacherous disease will ensure Africa will never become a global football powerhouse in the near future.
Match fixing ‑ the arranging in advance of the outcome of a match, or of events within that match, usually for the purpose of making money ‑ is injuring and soiling the image of the continent.
It is also threatening the integrity of football in Africa – the continent known as the cradle of humanity.
In organised sports, match fixing occurs as a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game and often the law.
In short, games are deliberately lost or thrown away.
To intentionally lose a match, the coach sometimes deliberately makes substitutions designed to increase the team's chances of losing.
This exercise of fixing the final result of the game is tarnishing the image of soccer in Europe, Asia and Africa.  
While those involved with match fixing face severe consequences if they are caught, football supporters and sponsors suffer, too.
Ultimately, fans either see their team perform worse than they should or are hurt if the team later faces sanctions. Also, innocent football players fall victim to their teammates' dishonest actions.
While the matches are happening, the players who are giving their all and trying to win are unaware that despite their best efforts their teammates are working to ensure that they are not successful.
As well, any sanctions handed down on a team hurt the innocent players as much as the cheaters.
Therefore, Africa needs to do a lot more to fight match fixing if it wants to restore the faith of fans in the sport.
Chris Eaton, a former FIFA official (security chief for football's governing body), has called for a new body that is made up of police across the African continent, sporting bodies as well as gambling organisations to help combat match fixing.
He said: “It (the new body) would need appropriate funding both from inside and outside Africa and should go beyond ‘writing reports’ to produce credible investigations.”
Eaton also said Africa needs substantial continental reform if it is to effectively curb match fixing.
He said: “There are an enormous amount of allegations involving Africans in match-fixing.
“I think you will find most serious people in sport in Africa today recognise that. There is a need for regulation and oversight of the official and even unofficial bodies that are part of the sporting milieu.''
The sad thing about the match fixing problems in Africa is that political leaders on the continent did not seem serious about combating the problem.
African leaders lack political will – the exercise of political authorities to enforce certain acts for the benefit of the public. Eaton commented: “It is a lack of political will. “African police are as competent and capable as any police in the world. There is no doubt if they put their will to it and have the funding to it, they can do it.''
To effectively eradicate match fixing problems in Africa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) should acknowledge the problem and take steps to combat it. CAF should increase the close watch of competitions. Furthermore, players and referees in Africa need face-to-face discussions about what is acceptable and to be warned about the dangers of being involved in match-fixing scandals.
FIFA should also put into place a raft of measures to fight match fixing, in particular by increasing surveillance of competitions, collaborating with national and international policing bodies and focusing on prevention and education, most notably, of players, referees, coaches and their entourage.
Again, education needs to be reinforced with legislation. Tougher rules to ensure clubs are financially sound and pay their players would help to minimise match fixing. It is common knowledge that match fixing has become a global problem, and a report from the European Union police agency, Europol, found organised crime gangs have fixed or tried to fix hundreds of football matches around the world in recent years.
Europol said an 18-month review found 380 suspicious matches in Europe and another 300 questionable games outside the continent, mainly in Africa, Asia and South and Central America. Thus, Africa and the rest of the world should join hands to curb this problem.


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