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Football officials make suspicious offer to referees

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By Peter Kanjere:

A leaked recorded mobile phone call from a TN Stars official to a member of the officiating panel for last Sunday’s TNM Super League match between the Kasungu team and Silver Strikers, has raised serious suspicion connected to match-fixing.

Malawi News has the recording in which Stars Publicity Officer, Chifundo Kaliwo, called to offer the referee accommodation

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and others logistics on the eve of the game which eventually ended 0-0.

“Muli malo abwino woti tikhoza kulankhulana?” Kaliwo asked the referee.

“Kaliwo, Kasungu ku TN Stars ndiye ndimati mukamasuka tiyankhulane. Mwanyamuka kapena simunanyamuke? Okay, kuno malo takukonzerani dongosolo labwino, malo wogona ndiye timafuna mukafika mundiyimbire kuti tipange link up kuti ndikupange handover zimenezo. Zinazo tikambirane mukafika.

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(Are you where we can discuss? This is Kaliwo, Kasungu at TN Stars. I wanted us to discuss something when you are free to do so. Have you started off or not? Okay, we have prepared accommodation for you, so link up with me when you arrive here so that I should hand over everything to you. We will discuss the rest while you are here.)

In response, the referee, who, when contacted confirmed receiving the call but refused to grant an interview, warned Kaliwo:

“But let me request you one thing: don’t call me again because I have never indulged in what you want me to do and I can’t do it, so don’t call me again because this is a serious offence. This is corruption. I can take any action on you, even having you arrested because you have told me your name. I know you so please don’t phone me again!).

Some hours later, the man sent the referee an SMS that read: “Pepani mutikhululukire” (sorry, forgive me).

Malawi News called the same phone number where the text came from and Kaliwo confirmed his identity on Thursday.

“It is a lie that I called the referee. The referee did not even mention this incident during a pre-match meeting,” Kaliwo said.

Stars are in the relegation zone on the league’s log table on position 14 whereas Silver are second.

In another incident, a Lilongwe-based referee who was off duty called one of his counterparts who was to officiate a Carlsberg Cup game between Red Lions and Stars at Mangochi Stadium on September 5 2018, saying he wanted to verify the referee’s number so that he could buy him car spare parts.

A few minutes later, a Stars official called the referee, offering some favours, adding that the Lilongwe whistle-man had already received his share.

On the day of the game, the official kept pestering the referee with calls.

Eventually, Stars officials did not come for a pre-match meeting but kept calling, saying he wanted to meet the referee first.

This led to the delayed kick-off of the match and the officiating panel comprising Medson Chisale, Charles Kataika, Mayamiko and Gift Njikho, eventually included that incident in a report which they submitted to Fam.

Fam referees sub-committee chairperson Rashid Ntelela, without disclosing identities, confirmed the incident on Thursday, saying they punished the Lilongwe middleman referee internally after a disciplinary hearing.

“The only case we handled involved a referee based in Lilongwe who called someone who was to officiate a game in Mangochi. Within a few minutes, the referee got a phone call from an official. The referee complained as to where the official got his phone number from. We had a hearing. We called all parties minus the club for a preliminary hearing,” Ntelela said.

However, the committee was unable to punish the Stars official because he claimed to have been calling so as to ask for more details about the match which Lions won 1-0.

Ntelela said he was yet to be told about Sunday’s incident at Kasungu Stadium.

National Referees Association (NRA) President, Patrick Kapanga, who handles anti-match fixing issues in Malawi, refused to grant Malawi News an interview on Thursday, saying he was at a funeral.

NRA General Secretary, Chris Kalichero, on Thursday said he was yet to be briefed about last Sunday’s incident but he was aware of the Mangochi incident, adding that the ‘middleman’ referee was punished internally.

Malawi News has established that the Lilongwe referee who was disciplined is Hendrix Maseko.

“We have been discouraging this. We warn referees that corruption is an offence. We do not deal with officials that are involved. If anything, we just refer such matters to an organiser of a particular competition. We cannot go directly. That one [for the Lilongwe middleman referee] was handled internally. It was not for public consumption,” Kalichero said.

Super League of Malawi (Sulom) Treasurer, Tiya Somba-Banda, Friday said he was not aware of any incident connected to match-fixing as no referee has ever indicated the same in a match report.

Sulom regulations Article 21 on Misconduct reads: “Any club that influences the result of a match contrary to these rules and regulations, statutes of Fam and Fifa statutes or any other applicable Laws of the Game shall be guilty of match-fixing and shall be expelled from the League.”

Reports of match-fixing are increasing in Malawi. In one incident that took place last year, a referee who was not on duty pocketed money from Nchalo United on the pretext that he would give it to the referees on duty, only for the officiating panel to be taken by surprise when the Lower Shire team’s officials irked by a loss to Chitipa United St Mzuzu Stadium after the Carlsberg Cup match, demanded back the K15,000.

NRA banned the referees for life before Fam softened up the punishments after the match officials appealed.

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