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Gambling hits Kenya sport as soccer club accuses coach of ‘throwing’ matches

KENYA football headed for a crisis as a match-fixing scandal in its premier league blew up an existing problem of seemingly uncontrollable gambling in the country.

Fears in the country are that lack of structures and capacity to regulate gambling was ruining a society and threatening popular sport such as football and athletics where widespread betting has infiltrated. Consequences of sportspersons and teams being involved in illegal influencing of results could be as much as life bans to athletes, teams and sports association affiliated to world bodies such as Fifa (Federation of International Football Associations), IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) and IOC (International Olympic Committee).

Paul Nkata, sacked from Kakamega Homeboyz after allegation of match-fixing in happier days -- 2016 -- when he steered Tusker to their ... Kenyan Premier League titles

Paul Nkata, sacked from Kakamega Homeboyz after allegation of match-fixing, seen in happier days — 2016 — when he steered Tusker to their 11th Kenyan Premier League title

The latest crisis is a Kenyan Premier League (KPL) club, Homeboyz of Kakamega County west of the country, being accused of match fixing. Fingers have been pointed to the coach, Paul Nkata, a Ugandan, as the mastermind. Nkata led to the 2016 KPL title, 11-time winners Tusker of Nairobi. He moved to Mombasa’s Bandari in 2017 before arriving at Homeboyz in May 2018.

None other than Homeboyz club owner, Cleophas Shimanyula, shockingly spilt the beans, just a day after he sacked coach Nkata, that the Ugandan had engaged in match-fixing. Shimanyula also said the scam was rife in Kenya’s leading and most famous clubs, 17-time and current champions Gor Mahia.

Kakamega Homeboyz (left) against Mathare United at the Moi International Sports Centre on January 19. Homeboyz lost 2-3

Kakamega Homeboyz (left) against Mathare United at the Moi International Sports Centre on January 19. Homeboyz lost 2-3

Shimanyula said Nkata was colluding with players to fix games and the Homeboyz owner warned that Kenyan football is facing a serious crisis because the vice is deeply entrenched in the local league. While he categorically stated that his club, Homeboyz, was involved in the vice, Shimanyula warned that top giants Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards, Sofapaka and Zoo could also be involved in the “trade”.

“We’ve already reported to the police with recorded evidence and written to Football Kenya Federation (FKF) over the same,” said Shimanyula. He said Nkata had been using one of the players, George Mandela, to influence other six with a figure between Sh50,000 to Sh200,000 per game to throw matches,” he added.

The Homeboyz coach had suddenly gone into hiding after allegations of the match-fixing racket he was involved in emerged. Nkata is alleged to have paid his players on various occasions to lose matches in favour of bets placed in one of the betting companies he is claimed to co-own.

 

Allan Wanga of El Merreikh celebrates after scoring against APR during their Cecafa Kagame Club Cup Championship 2014 final at the Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali. As a Homeboyz player Wanga has taken over after match-fixing scandal involving previous coach Paul Nkata.

Allan Wanga of  Sudan’s El Merreikh celebrates after scoring against APR of Rwanda during their Cecafa Kagame Club Cup Championship 2014 final at the Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali. As a Kakamega Homeboyz player Wanga has taken over after match-fixing scandal involving previous coach Paul Nkata.

He allegedly left the country (Kenya) on Tuesday morning for his native Uganda after learning that his schemes had been exposed. Veteran Kenya international striker Allan Wanga — who has played elsewhere in Africa including at Petro Atletico (Angola), FK Baku (Azerbaijan), Hoang Anh Gia Lai (Vietnam), Al Merreikh (Sudan) and Azam (Tanzania) – was placed temporary coach in charge at Homeboyz. Wanga led Homeboyz to an unexpected 4-0 thrashing of KPL’s second-placed side Bandari at Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega on Wednesday. Homeboyz jumped from 13th to 10th place. Mathare United, 2008 champions, are current leaders.

The Homeboyz club chief executive officer interviewed and recorded statements from of seven players in connection with the “expose”.  Shimanyula said the club management started investigating after the scheme leaked that eight players including the first team goalkeeper had allegedly received Sh50,000 each to lose their match against Sony Sugar of the Nyanza lake region in Awendo by over four goals. They were to be paid another Sh200,000 if they attained the results but this never materialised as they lost the encounter only 1-2.

Shimanyula said Nkata had eight players in his scheme of throwing matches and all were in the  1st XI. He said together with the team management, they decided to set a trap and pushed two players to accept to join the scheme during their match against Mathare United. Homeboyz lost 2-3. The players had been promised Sh300,000 for a loss by over four goals. He said that the club was working to establish the betting company the coach was working for or co-owns.

Allan Wanga led Kakamega Homeboyz to a whooping 4-0 win over Kenyan Premier League's second placed side Bandari at Bukhungu Stadium on Wednesday, just days after exit of Ugandan Paul Nkata

Allan Wanga led Kakamega Homeboyz to a whooping 4-0 win over Kenyan Premier League’s second placed side Bandari at Bukhungu Stadium on Wednesday, just hours after exit of Ugandan Paul Nkata

“These betting companies have destroyed football, which was picking up in the country. We put money in these teams but it’s unfortunate that some coaches can be used to ruin the clubs for personal gains,” Shimanyula said.

“I am calling upon Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa to ensure that Nkata is completely banned from coaching any club in Kenyan and the region and action taken against him because match-fixing is a crime,” he added.

Jack Oguda, the KPL chief executive officer said they would not make a comprehensive statement about the matter since they were yet to get any evidence from the club.

The FKF president, Mwendwa tweeted: “Allegedly a coach caught using his players for match fixing. New frontier in Kenyan football! We have to up our game now in ensuring we deal with it. Eish! More updates to come !!”

-Additional reporting from Correspondents

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