This week the world football governing body Fifa, banned Ugandan footballer George Mandela for life. This was for his prominent role in match-fixing at his club Kakamega Homeboyz. It was an action I expected would be greeted with much public support. When the game is under so much threat from match-fixing, it is reasonable that any such actions are applauded.
It is difficult to say whether Fifa’s actions met our expectations but all debates on the matter have been certainly underwhelming. Here at home, it was casually met with a shrug of indifference. And I don’t get the sense that Kenyan football came out of this with the conviction that match-fixing was going to be managed out of the game.
I imagine the main talking point should have been whether Fifa’s ‘aggressiveness’ fully addresses the vice. Already, match fixing is said to be so extensive, it can’t be possibly addressed by only taking out players. How about rogue managers who might draft them into their schemes? In fact, when this very case came to our attention last year, the accusations were leveled not only at the players, but also Team Manager, Paul Nkata.
Did Fifa’s actions therefore come at the end of investigations that absolve Paul Nkata of any wrong doings? If so, what should we make of his 12-month silence which right now seems like a muted confession that suggests George Mandela and his three cohorts aren’t the only discredited persons here?
And in no way am I convinced that Kakamega Homeboyz is the only club lured in by this vice in Kenya or Uganda. As a matter of wicked logic, match-fixing offers and delivers quicker than football prospers. Therefore, the law of averages dictates that many footballers managers and God knows who else, are out there waiting to be caught.
So, unless Fifa is addressing that glitch, the banning of the four footballers is a typical case of speaking to the symptoms rather than the disease.
And the disease is that Fifa allowed football to cohabit with the betting industry in the first place. Sportpesa is easily footballs’ biggest sponsor. In Uganda Bet Lion and Betway are prominent.
We all know that no betting companies openly encourage the vice of match-fixing but how can there not be a connection? How can a player who hardly makes ends meet not fall for the never-ending advertisements that glorify sports betting and its overnight millionaires? How can players and managers alike fail to eventually figure out how to ‘guarantee’ wins by taking a punt on games under their direct influence?
This link is as logical as it is evil. It is a marriage made in hell and one in which I am afraid, Fifa has been the main celebrant. They therefore reserve the right to renegotiate this unholy alliance.
It is something that may not appeal to Fifa’s financial sensibilities. But neither is it a legacy they will relish nor unfortunately, something they can hope to sweep under by just banning a few footballers whose luck run out.