More than 60 Zimbabwean players have been banned over the “Asiagate” match-fixing scandal without a fair legal hearing, the world soccer players’ union FIFPro said on Wednesday.
The players were banned by the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) in 2012 after it ruled that matches played by the national team in Asia in 2007 and 2009 were manipulated.
“For almost two years these players have been waiting for justice to prevail,” said FIFPro in a statement. “Innocent players have lost their jobs which has not only hurt their personal lives but also that of their families and relatives.”
FIFPro said it had written to soccer’s world governing body FIFA several times urging it to intervene but had yet to receive a response.
“The situation is unacceptable,” said a letter sent to FIFA by Stephane Burchkalter, head of FIFPro’s Africa division.
“We would like to request FIFA to confirm the sanctions are illegal, and the players involved are in a position to find a new club.”
ZIFA had failed to follow proper disciplinary procedures, FIFPro added.
“Among other objections, players were not cited properly, players were not properly charged, players were not formally charged, some players did not even travel or play with the national team when the fixed matches took place.
“Appealing was almost unaffordable, as ZIFA demanded a fee of $6,000, while an average salary in the Zimbabwean Premier League is $150 to $400 per month.”
FIFPro’s website (www.fifpro.org) also carried an interview with one of the banned players, former Zimbabwe captain Guthrie Zhokinyi.
Zhokinyi said he had turned down an approach to fix a match during a tournament in Kenya in 2009.
“I was approached when we were to play the quarter-final game against Rwanda,” he said, adding that some men came up to his room, told Zhokinyi to lose the game 6-0 and advised him to enlist two or three other players in the fix.
“We agreed not to sell the game, but to play a clean game,” said Zhokinyi, who informed his team mates.
He said that despite this, ZIFA banned him. “I heard from the media that I was suspended for life. The official suspension letter came later,” he added.
“I was never called before the disciplinary committee. Never.
“I am not guilty,” Zhokinyi said. “The head of the delegation knew that we were approached and that we turned down the offer.
“I am the breadwinner of my family and my parents. I look after the whole family. I am the one who can make our family well.”