Fifa bans seven as South African match-fixing syndicate infiltrates Uganda

Fifa has imposed worldwide bans on seven Ugandans amid a major match-fixing scandal masterminded by South African criminals. 

The seven include former referees George Nkurunziza and Deogratius Opio. The duo were initially handed domestic bans by Fufa in August last year but Fifa has now escalated globally. They are barred from engaging in any football-related activities at least until 2033.

Nkurunziza and Opio, along with five players, were suspended in May 2023 for 90 days by Fufa’s Ethics and Disciplinary Committee following confessions and corroborative data from Match Integrity reports.

These players, who have received five-year bans, are former Gaddafi trio Andrew Waiswa, Mahad Yaya Kakooza and Godfrey Lwesibawa, Abdallah Mwima (Ndejje University), Saleh Maganda (Calvary) and Franco Oringa (Northern Gateway).

Godfrey Lwesibawa is in hot soup. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

In a statement released in the wee hours of Friday morning, Fufa confirmed: "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.” 

South African syndicate

Just hours before this announcement, Fufa had suspended more than 13 individuals in one of the biggest scandals to hit the country. The federation revealed that a South African syndicate and a Ugandan ex-convict have masterminded the fresh match-fixing scandal.

This new wave of suspensions involves ten referees, two football administrators, and Lugazi FC defender Latif Kiyemba. Fufa said that they received alerts indicating that several matches in the first round of the just-concluded season had been targeted for manipulation for betting purposes by the organised criminal gang.

They received the alerts from Sportradar, a data collecting firm they partner with to provide information on betting patterns for the Uganda Premier and Fufa Big Leagues.

The matches under investigation played between October 12 and November 16 last year, are from the second divisions of the respective men’s and women’s betPawa Big League and Women Elite League.

The suspended referees are Ali Kaddu, Geoffrey Sajjabi, Noor Hassan, Khalid Muyaga, Simon Peter Okello, Godwin Nantantya, Joyce Atuheirwe, Tausi Nabisere Tausi, Dorcus Atuhaire and Samuel Ichila.

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

Mahad Yaya Kakooza (L) is in trouble too. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

"The operation on behalf of the match-fixing syndicate was led by one Hilfiger Mutyaba alias Chelsea and other local criminal elements," Fufa said.

The statement added: "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 for purposes of involving them in the fixing of matches." Kaddu was previously suspended in December 2021 for controversially disallowing Steven Mukwala’s goal for URA in their 6-1 win over Tooro United in the 2021/22 Uganda Premier League season.

Richard Epieru and retired referee Ahmed Kongola, who also served as Kyetume’s chief executive officer, are the two football administrators implicated.

Ongoing efforts

These developments are part of an ongoing launched in March 2023 to combat the vice.

This is the second significant sanction by Fifa involving a Ugandan in the past five years after the body banned former Kakamega Homeboyz defender player George Mandela for life in February 2020 for his gross involvement in fixing matches in Kenya in 2019.

The National Sports Law enacted in 2023 now criminalizes match-fixing by imposing fines of up to shs100m or imprisonment for up to five years or both for those found guilty.

Referee Deogracious Opio is banned. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

Fifa bans

Five years running - Saleh Maganda (formerly at Calvary), Franco Oringa (formerly at Northern Gateway), Godfrey Lwesibawa, Yahaya Mahad Kakooza and Andrew Waiswa (all formerly at Gadaffi).

Ten years running ban - George Nkurunziza & Deogracious Opio.

The 13 suspended for 90 days by Fufa - Latif Kiyemba (player - Lugazi FC), Geoffrey Sajjabi, Noor Hassan, Khalid Muyaga, Simon Peter Okello, Godwin Nantantya, Joyce Atuheirwe, Tausi Nabisere Tausi, Dorcus Atuhaire and Samuel Ichila (all referees) and Richard Epieru and Ahmed Kongola (administrators).

The seven matches played in 2023 that were affected

October 12 - Kigezi Homeboyz 3-0 Kyetume

October 12 - Kaaro Karungi 2-1 Calvary

October 15 - Rines 2-3 Kawempe Muslim

October 15 - Asubo Gafford 0-5 She Maroons

October 29 - Jinja North 1-1 Kyetume

November 16 - Kyetume 0-2 Ndejje University

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