OPINION: Match-Fixing, the Cancer that is Slowly Eating Up Uganda’s Football

Sports Betting has been cited as the main cause of match fixing in Uganda

The issue at the heart of this article would leave you wondering about how exactly football in Uganda would move without shady activities.

From the arrow boys to homosexuality and now match fixing is slowly finding it’s way to Ugandan football.

At the time when you thought the local league was on its way to resuscitation after over 10 years in limbo, sick reports about match fixing have started to pop up.

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As a journalist and a passionate follower of sports, the recent cases of players getting their contracts terminated on grounds of match fixing leaves me pondering.

The vice is a serious threat, described by many including high profile sporting figures, sports administrators and governing bodies as a greater threat to the integrity of sports than doping.

The worry however is; despite clubs axing players and terminating their contracts, that doesn’t give a satisfying solution to curb the vice which is slowly encroaching on the game. Besides, the local football governing body, FUFA have remained coy on the issue.

There seems to be no consorted efforts to fight the vice at its infancy.

What is Match-fixing?

Match fixing is when the outcome of a match in organized sports has been manipulated. The reason for fixing a match includes ensuring a certain team advances/gambling.

Similarly, there is also spot fixing.

This refers to illegal activity in a sport in which a specific aspect of a game, unrelated to final result but upon which a betting market exists for example timing the first throw in, booking or corners in association football.

Origin of match fixing

There is no exact proof about when and where match fixing started but there are several cases that can be pointed to dating as far as 1890s.

In England, the first case was evidenced in 1896 between Stoke City and Burnley but the Major match fixing saga happened in 1915 between Manchester United and Liverpool.

With United battling relegation and Liverpool in mid table, bookies were offering 7-1 on a 2-0 win for the home side.

And with the war threatening to shut down the league thus ending the players’ wages it proved a temptation too far.

Led by United and former Liverpool player Jackie Sheldon, 7 players from both sides decided to carve up the game.

Throughout the match, Liverpool’s performance was marked by a peculiar lack of commitment, even down to the penalty they blazed over the bar.

There was also an odd incident where Liverpool players remonstrated furiously with teammate Fred Pagnam for taking a shot at goal.

It later transpired that Pagnam refused to take part and threatened to ruin the bet- he would eventually testify against his teammates in court.

All the 7 players were banned for life, but the bans were lifted in 1919 in recognition of the men’s service in World war I.

How the fixers operate?

Interpol has estimated the size of those illicit market at $500 billion. Once the fixer has gained trust of a player or a group of players, or even referees, he will direct them to ensure a specific outcome such as making sure a minimum number of goals are scored in a particular match.

The victim (player or an official) is promised money to make sure the required/desired result is attained.

In some cases the money is offered even before the game. The funny bit about match fixing in football is that the game is about mistakes.

A team scores against the other because of lapse in defending poor marking or a foul on an opposing player which are obviously part of the game. Thus knowing whether the mistake was intended or not becomes complex.

Spot fixing is even more common these days. This includes things like red cards, yellow cards, number of corners, fouls or throw-ins.

The dubious red cards given to players leaves room for a second thought for example the challenge on Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic by Alex Song (Cameroon) in the 2014 FIFA World cup.

Cases in Uganda

At the start of this season, the friendly match between Express and “Soana” was reportedly fixed.

The game played on 6th June 2016 at Wankulukuku ended in a 3-2 victory for Express. The game was pinned by several betting houses as an international friendly but was later cancelled with reports of a predetermined result arising.

A customer (name withheld) who placed his bet with Elite Betting Company on the correct score of 3-2 was not paid and he lodged his complaint to the Uganda National Lottery Board (UNLB).

The board sought for advice and further investigations by the FUFA committee for match organisation headed by Muzafaalu Zirabamuzaale but up to now, no report has come out.

Charles Ayieko, the then head coach of Soana denied any intentions of match fixing and indicated the game was between Express and MUBS where he also served as coach.

URA FC and Police football club

The tax collectors a month ago, suspended defender Fahad Kawooya and skipper Oscar Agaba on grounds of match fixing.

Investigations are still on but reportedly, the two players confessed to have taken part in the dubious act.

Last week, Police football club chairman, Assistant IGP Asan Kasingye issued a statement indicating the club had parted ways with captain Godfrey Kateregga and Saddat Kyambadde for throwing away games.

According to Kasingye, Kateregga who did not train with the team forced the coach to play him and he ended up causing a penalty.

“One day, Kateregga who was very sick and not training for a week rushed to Jinja on match day and surprisingly asked the coach to field him. We had scored a goal and he caused a penalty against us. The result and score was a loss on our part,” said Kasingye.

Unconfirmed reports indicate it is even worse in the FUFA Big league with club officials, referees, FUFA officials and journalists engaging themselves in match fixing.

On match days, Big league fixtures are displayed on the market especially in Greece, Israel and Eastern Europe markets.

What should be done to stop the vice?

A comprehensive strategy to combat the complex threat of match fixing must be built on a thorough understanding of the nature and scale of the threat by all stakeholders.

An effective way to formulate a strategy is to focus efforts around a number of principles.

Personally I think this can be done in three ways, namely; – Formulation of clear guidelines -Compliance with and surveillance of those guidelines -Sensitisation/Education.

By the time of filling this article, FUFA President, Engineer Moses Magogo was convening a meeting with Uganda Premier League club chairmen at Namboole stadium and one of the key issues on the agenda was match fixing.


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