African Cup of Nations Match-Fixing Allegations Against Zimbabwe Could Be Dirty Tricks Campaign

Posted on: July 6, 2019, 06:01h. 

Last updated on: July 6, 2019, 11:15h.

Scandal abounds at soccer’s African Cup of Nations, where the Zimbabwean national team – or at least its goalkeeper — has been accused by media of throwing its final group match against the Democratic Republic of Congo last Sunday. But could the accusations be nothing more than political scandalmongering?

African Cup of Nations
Suspicious Minds? Elvis Chipezeze was to blame for his team’s shock defeat against the DR Congo last Sunday but do allegations of match-fixing have any credibility or are they part of a defamatory dirty tricks campaign? (Image: AFP)

Zimbabwe was a favorite to win against DR Congo, which had been beaten in each of its two opening games 2-0, by Uganda and Egypt, respectively.

It was a make-or-break-it game for both teams, but DR Congo prevailed with surprising ease, battering its opponent 4-0, as third-choice Zimbabwe goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze — normally a safe pair of hands, by all accounts — fumbled the ball twice and gave away a penalty.

It all looked a little bit suspicious.

And that’s when the accusations started. Allegations first appeared in Madagascan media, claiming that Chipezeze had been bribed to throw the match by Moise Katumbi, a multimillionaire Congolese businessman and owner of TP Mazambe, five-time African club champions.

Sowing Discord

Katumbi also happens to be the leader of the opposition in the DR Congo and a fervent supporter of democracy, who has frequently been the target of smear campaigns by supporters of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.

In fact, match-fixing isn’t the worst thing he’s been accused of. He was even blamed by his political opponents for a 2018 Ebola outbreak in the country.

Meanwhile, Madagascar just happens to be the team DR Congo will be playing in the next round, so sowing a bit of discord among the Congolese team might be just what the doctor ordered.

The Madagascan report cited “reliable” sources who claimed that Katumbi had been seen at the hotel in Cairo where the Zimbabwean and Congolese teams were staying and had “coerced” Chipezeze into throwing the match.

A large sum of money was supposed to be transferred into the bank of the Zimbabwean goalkeeper,” it claimed, but the transaction was flagged up as suspicious and did not go through.

Meanwhile, it alleged the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had held an emergency meeting and was considering throwing the Congolese out of the tournament, a claim the federation was unable to confirm when approached by the Zimbabwean press.

Katumbi Responds

Katumbi has written to CAF to deny the allegations and is considering taking legal action against the Madagascan media for defamation.

“The ‘journalists’ who invent grotesque cases of match corruption #CAN2019 discredit their profession. Sad! I wasn’t in Egypt when they would have ‘seen me the day before the game.’” Katumbi wrote. “I am a lover of sport who always defends merit — fairness!”

Match-fixing or not, someone, somewhere is being unsporting.

At the time of writing, CAF has taken no action the game between Madagascar and the DR Congo is scheduled to go ahead on Sunday night, with DR Congo a 7/5 favorite to advance to the next round.

Egypt and its Champions League-winning striker Mo Salah remain outright favorites to take the tournament, at 3/1. By contrast, Madagascar is a rank outsider at 50/1.