Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
KALUSHA BWALYA has said he will fight to clear his name, and prove his innocence, after the African football legend was slapped with a two-year ban from the game by FIFA for receiving a controversial $80 000 payment from outlawed Qatari business tycoon Mohamed Bin Hammam.
The 54-year-old Zambian, who is a CAF executive member and the only footballer from this part of the continent to win the African Footballer of the Year award, is the first high-profile figure from the continent to be slapped with a ban by the world football governing body for a scandal triggered by an expose by the Sunday Times of Britain in June four years ago.
The newspaper published leaked e-mails which showed Bin Hammam, who once held the post of FIFA vice president and leader of the Asian Football Confederation before he fell from grace after being banned from the game for life in 2012, paid a number of high-profile figures in the game in the countdown to his challenge for the presidency of world football.
The payments also came prior to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, with Qatar winning the bid to host the next edition of football’s biggest showcase.
About 25 African football leaders were said to have corruptly benefited from a $5 million slash fund which was being run by Bin Hammam.
Bin Hammam was found by a FIFA Ethics Committee investigation, chaired by Michael Garcia, guilty of “repeated violations” of the ethics code on conflicts of interest, during his time as the AFC president and also while on the FIFA Executive Committee between 2008 and 2011.
Some of the allegations included that:
Two days prior to inviting 25 members of African football associations on an all-expenses paid junket to Kuala Lumpur, $200 000 was withdrawn from the Asian Football Confederation accounts.
A second junket organised was four months later, guests were encouraged to bring their family and were each given $5 000 spending money.
Swaziland Football Association boss Adam “Bomber’’ Mthethwa requested a $30k payment as his “gratuity (which) will only be paid to me when I reach the age of 55 in 2010.”
Bin Hammam arranged for the delivery of 60 tickets for matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup (valued at £3,800) to the then CAF president Issa Hayatou.
Fadoul Houssein, a Djibouti football leader, e-mailed him to that he was “sure” Bin Hammam would win the FIFA presidency and received $30 000 to fund “expensive medical treatment” for his association’s general secretary.
Bin Hammam asked the Sudan Football Association to provide details to make a payment after they claimed to not be able to afford to pay for the general assembly.
Seedy Kinteh, the president of the Gambia Football Association was paid $10k. Kinteh implied that the money was paid in exchange for a vote to become president of FIFA when he signed off the email: “I have every reason to be grateful and indeed my President and Brother I am.’’ Kinteh later received $50 000 for a new car paid through bin Hammam’s daughter’s account.
The Qatari paid Manuel Dende, the Sao Tome FA boss $50 000 after the latter had initially requested $232 000.
Izetta Wesley, the Liberian football leader, was paid $10 000.
The FIFA executive member associations, Cameroon, Nigeria and Cote dÍvoire were paid $400 000 while $50 000 was paid to the Namibian Football Association to assist with “Second Division leagues that had been affected by financial challenges.
The Somali Football Federation were paid $100 000 through Bin Hammam daughter’s account, CECAFA were paid $200 000 three days after the World Cup bids had been decided to fund the 2010 CECAFA Cup.
Bwalya, who scored the late goal that knocked Zimbabwe out of contention for a place at the 1994 AFCON finals as Zambia scrambled a draw at the National Sports Stadium, was paid $80 000.
Yesterday, FIFA, who have been investigating the Zambian since February last year, announced he had been banned for two years.
“The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has banned Kalusha Bwalya, member of the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football, for two years from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level,’’ FIFA said in a statement.
“The investigation against Mr Bwalya was opened on 28 February 2017, and focused principally on benefits that Mr Bwalya had received from Mr Bin Hammam.
“The adjudicatory chamber found Mr Bwalya guilty of having violated art. 16 (Confidentiality) and art. 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits) of the FIFA Code of
Ethics. A fine in the amount of CHF 100 000 was also imposed on Mr Bwalya.
“The decision was notified to Mr Bwalya today, and the ban comes into force immediately.’’
Bwalya posted a statement on twitter yesterday said he would fight to prove his innocence.
“I am surprised and saddened by today’s receipt of the notification from the FIFA Ethics Committee adjudication,’’ Bwalya said. “I have instructed my legal team to immediately appeal this decision urgently and would like to state that I am NOT guilty of any offence, which allegedly took place.
“I have never done and will never do anything to bring the beautiful game into disrepute and stand by the facts provided by me to the Committee.
“I unfortunately cannot provide any further details as my legal team has advised that this would jeopardise my chances of obtaining leave to appeal.
“FIFA’s decision is not final and I will fight tooth and nail for justice to clear my name. I thank all my fans for their on-going support.’’
Bwalya has previously said he received a loan, when he was going through some tough times financially, and intended to repay the money paid by Bin Hammam.
An initial $50 000 was paid into his account in 2009 and a further $30 000 followed in December 2011.
The payment was triggered by an email which Bwalya wrote to Bin Hammam.
“As per our conversation, please Mr president if you could assist me with about 50 thousand Dollars for my Football association and personal expenditures,’’ he wrote.
“I hope to repay you in the near future, as the burden is little bit too hard for me at this moment.’’