In a major shake-up, FIFA has imposed worldwide bans on seven Ugandan players and referees involved in a match-fixing scandal orchestrated by South African criminals. Let’s dive into the details of this scandal and the individuals caught up in it.

FIFA extended worldwide sanctions on seven Ugandans who had already been suspended by the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) in 2023 for match manipulation. Former referees George Nkurunziza and Deogratius Opio are among those banned. Initially, they received domestic bans last August, but now, FIFA has stepped in, barring them from all football-related activities until at least 2033. Along with them, five players were suspended in May 2023 by FUFA’s Ethics and Disciplinary Committee after confessions and corroborative data from Match Integrity reports.

FUFA confirmed this in a statement, “World Football governing body, FIFA has extended worldwide sanctions on Ugandan players and referees who had earlier been suspended by FUFA in 2023 for engaging in match manipulation.”

The South African Connection

Just hours before FIFA’s announcement, FUFA suspended over 13 individuals in one of the biggest scandals that hit Ugandan football. The federation revealed that a South African syndicate, along with a Ugandan ex-convict, masterminded this fresh wave of match-fixing.

The latest suspensions involve ten referees, two football administrators, and Lugazi FC defender Latif Kiyemba. FUFA received alerts from Sportradar, a data-collecting firm, indicating that several matches from the first round of the recently concluded season had been targeted for manipulation for betting purposes.

Who Got Caught?

The matches under investigation took place between October 12 and November 16 last year, involving the second divisions of the men’s and women’s FUFA Big League and Women Elite League. The suspended referees include Ali Kaddu, Geoffrey Sajjabi, Noor Hassan, Khalid Muyaga, Simon Perer Okello, Godwin Nantantya, Joyce Atuheirwe, Tausi Nabisere, Dorcus Atuhaire, and Samuel Ichila.

The operations were allegedly orchestrated by Hilfiger Chelsea Mutyaba, an ex-convict previously convicted of financial crimes in the Virgin Islands. Referee Kaddu, reportedly recruited by Mutyaba, played a central role in coordinating the referees involved.

FUFA stated, “The operation on behalf of the match-fixing syndicate was led by one Hilfiger Mutyaba alias Chelsea and other local criminal elements. Mutyaba and his accomplices recruited Referee Kaddu Ali, who was tasked with approaching and recruiting club officials, players, and referees on behalf of the match-fixers.”

More Names and Ongoing Efforts

Richard Epieru and retired referee Ahmed Kongola, who also served as Kyetume’s chief executive officer, are the two football administrators implicated. This crackdown is part of ongoing efforts launched in March 2023 to combat match-fixing. This marks the second significant sanction by FIFA involving a Ugandan in the past five years. The first being former Kakamega Homeboyz player George Mandela, who was banned for life in February 2020 for fixing matches in Kenya in 2019.

The National Sports Law, enacted in 2023, now criminalizes match-fixing, imposing fines of up to Shs100 million or imprisonment for up to five years, or both, for those found guilty.

So, as FIFA cracks down on match-fixing, it’s clear that the beautiful game is getting a much-needed clean-up, making it harder for the bad apples to spoil the fun.

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