Nigerian referee Ogabor banned for 1 year

JOHANNESBURG — The Confederation of African Football says Nigerian referee Joseph Ogabor has been banned for one year for "attempted match manipulation" during an international club match earlier this month.

The decision follows investigations conducted and evidence submitted by the South African match officials who were in charge of a Confederation Cup game in Lagos on April 7 between Nigerian team Plateau United and Algerian club USM Alger. Plateau United won it 2-1.

CAF said in a brief statement Sunday that those officials had been contacted by Ogabor to provide "technical assistance" — or provide favor — to the Nigerian team. CAF added that its referees committee accepted the recommendation of its disciplinary board to ban Ogabor.

No further details were given, but Plateau United was cautioned to "refrain from the practice of hospitality gifts which tend to create wrong impression."

However, CAF also ordered the South African Football Association to apologize to its Nigerian counterpart over allegations of a $30,000 bribe relating to the same game. The four South African officials in charge say they were offered $30,000 to fix it. Referee Victor Gomes, assistant referees Johannes Moshidi and Athenkosi Ndongeni, and fourth official Thando Ndzandzeka were offered the bribe in cash ahead of the game, SAFA alleged after the game.

SAFA said Gomes immediately reported the incident to CAF, which runs the Confederation Cup and opened an investigation. No details were given at the time on who was suspected of offering the bribe.

CAF concluded that "investigations proved there was no evidence whatsoever," regarding an attempted bribery.

The two-legged playoff match decided who reached the main group stage of the Confederation Cup, Africa's second-biggest club competition after the African Champions League. USM Alger won the return leg 4-0 to advance.

Africa has been a fertile ground for match-fixing.

A World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal in 2016 was ordered by FIFA to be replayed after Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found guilty of fixing the game by awarding South Africa a penalty for a non-existent handball by a Senegalese player. Lamptey was later banned for life by FIFA, which detailed other games stretching back years where his actions came under suspicion.

This month, the referees' body in Malawi asked the national soccer association to increase the amount it pays referees and match officials, which is currently about $5 each per game. The referees' body argued that the low wages increased the likelihood of match officials fixing games for money.

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