|Warriors goalkeepers'coach is a convicted criminal!|
|Wednesday, 06 October 2010 10:31|
THE Zifa technical committee was in the eye of a storm last night after stunning revelations that they secretly recruited a convicted criminal, who served a five-month prison term in a Singapore jail and a one-year worldwide ban from all football activities imposed by Fifa for match-fixing, into the coaching staff of the Warriors.
Lutz Pfannestiel, the 37-year-old German who was clandestinely roped into the Warriors’ technical team as a goalkeepers’ coach on the recommendations of Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, has been unmasked as an ex-convict who was jailed in Singa-pore in 2001 in a major match-fixing scandal that rocked the South East Asian nation. Pfannestiel had been working in Namibia and was recruited by Saintfiet — who won the Zifa technical committee’s vote in the race for the Warriors’ coaching post — to join him in the technical team of the senior national side as a specialist goalkeepers’ coach.
The shadowy process to recruit Pfannestiel was kept away from the public domain until the German appeared at the Warriors’ first training session at the National Sports Stadium on Monday and took charge of the training of goalkeepers in camp.
Pfannestiel was even given a Warriors’ kit, the same worn by the all the coaches during that training session, and worked with goalkeepers Tapiwa Kapini, Washington Arubi, Edmore Sibanda and Timothy Sibanda during both the morning and afternoon training sessions.
But The Herald can reveal today that Pfanne-stiel is a convicted criminal, who was jailed for five months in Singapore, after being found guilty of agreeing to accept bribes from a bookmaker in exchange for influencing the outcome of three of the matches he played in the Singapore top-flight league.
The shocking revelations are likely to rock the Zifa board, which has been divided by a controversial process to appoint the Warriors’ coaching staff, and questions will inevitably be asked about how the technical committee decided to appoint a man, with such a tainted past, into the Warriors’ set-up.
That a Zifa board, which has taken a tough stance towards match-fixing and suspended a number of its senior employees on allegations of links to betting syndicates in Asia, could turn around and recruit a convicted match-fixing agent into the Warriors will certainly lead to questions about the association’s commitment to root out corruption in the game.
The Zifa technical committee, which has been handling the recruitment of coaching personnel into various national coaching teams, is headed by retired referee Kenny Marange and its members include Benedict Moyo, Solomon Mugavazi, Twine Phiri, Methembe Ndlovu, Gift Banda and Patrick Hokonya.
Questions will now, inevitably, be asked as to how such a technical committee either missed, or ignored, the fact that one of the coaches they were recruiting was a convicted match-fixing agent who had even served a worldwide Fifa ban. Ironically, the same technical committee had insisted that it would not consider the recruitment of any local coach or official suspected of having been involved in match-fixing during the Warriors’ trips to Asia and there were even attempts to tarnish Norman Mapeza’s good name through insinuations that he might have dined with betting syndicates in Kenya last year.
Now how will the same committee defend itself against its decision to recruit someone, tried and convicted for match-fixing, into the coaching department of the Warriors and giving him the massive responsibility to take care of the crucial department of goalkeeping. Questions will also be asked about Saintfiet’s links, not only to Pfannenstiel, but also the Asian underworld given that the Belgian coach also worked extensively in that part of the world and whether his choice for a goalkeepers’ coach in the Warriors was just a mere coincidence or part of a shadowy scheme.
Sources said yesterday that Saintfiet told the Zifa technical committee that he would pay Pfannestiel from his salary.
Pfannestiel was arrested by Singapore’s crack Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau on July 30 2000 at his home in Singapore after a bookmaker, arrested in connection with a match-fixing scandal, named him as one of the people involved in the scheme. The German was then playing for Geyland United, a team in the Singapore top-flight league, as a goalkeeper and was arrested alongside a number of players, including Australian striker Mairko Jurilj who was playing for a team called Jurong, during the operation.
Pfannestiel and Jurilj shared the same house then. They were both found guilty and sent to jail with Pfannestiel being punished for agreeing to let bookmaker Sivakumar Madasamy bet 18 000 Singapore dollars (US$10 415) on the player’s behalf in exchange for influencing the outcome of three of his own matches in Singapore’s S-League.
Jurilj confessed in a written statement the part he played in the scam and was jailed for five months. Pfannestiel faced a jail term of up to five years but the court established that despite his conviction for agreeing to accept bribes, the German goalkeeper never actually received money because none of the three games went according to the match-fixing syndicate’s plan.
As the verdict was read, Pfannestiel cried and hugged his Singaporean girlfriend, who had cried throughout the hearing, before he was handcuffed and taken away to Queenstown Prison.
Judge Hoo Sheau Ping said Pfannestiel and Jurilj "masterminded schemes" to fix games.
Bookmaker Madasamy testified that he offered to provide money for Pfannestiel to bet on S-League football matches.
"Mirko even told me he would even concede a penalty or try to kick the ball in his own net," Madasamy told the court.
The German goalkeeper even had the temerity to release a statement, following his conviction, that the only comfort he derived from going to jail was that he would again be in the company of Jurilj.
The Singapore Football Association immediately banned the two players, following their conviction, for life from playing in that country and having anything to do with football.
Their contracts were also terminated.
Fifa then extended the ban around the world but, rather than slapping them with a life ban, ruled that they would only be banned for a year effective from the date they were charged in August 2000.
The Fifa authorities had initially rejected extending the ban worldwide, arguing that Jurilj and Pfannenstiel had not been given a right to appeal before they were banned for life by the Singapore FA, but evidence later proved otherwise and the world football controlling body effected the ban. "However, this viewpoint proved to be unfounded as it was found that the players had actually renounced their right to appeal against the decision," said Andreas Herren, who was then the Fifa spokesman.
"The lawyers for the two players acknowledged this in their respective petitions and also confirmed that, in order to shorten proceedings, the Football Association of Singapore had based their ruling on the inquiry of the Singapore courts."
The Singapore Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau official website also has a record of the case when Pfannenstiel was tried and convicted for match-fixing.
"FORMER GEYLAND UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB GOALKEEPER, LUTZ PFANNENSTIEL, WAS SENT TO PRISON FOR FIVE MONTHS FOR ACCEPTING US$12 000 IN BRIBES IN RETURN FOR MATCH-FIXING. HE HAD AGREED TO ACCEPT US$5 000, US$7 000 AND US$6 000 RAISED BY SIVAKUMAR MANDASAMY TO BET ON HIS BEHALF," READS THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT WEBSITE.
"IN RETURN HE WOULD FIX THE RESULTS OF THE MATCHES HE PLAYED IN. LUTZ, AS GOALKEEPER, WOULD LET IN GOALS TO INFLUENCE THE RESULTS."
THE official review of the 2000 Singapore top-flight league also highlights the match-fixing trial.
"Nevertheless, there were controversies when Eagles ‘keeper Lutz Pfannenstiel and Cobras striker Mirko Jurilj were arrested by the CPIB and charged with match-fixing towards the tail-end of the league season," reads the report.
"Both were convicted and jailed for their offence. It was a sad scene that after five years of S-league, the first two wrongdoers were caught but it was also a relief that the league was keeping up the fight against match-fixing."
The Bleacher Report of October 2008 highlights that Pfannenstiel is the only footballer who has played for a club in all the world’s six continents.
"When you follow his career, it becomes obvious that Lutz’ way of planning his career is to simply accept any offer he gets. This makes his curriculum vitae look like some drunkard has been throwing darts arrows at a world map," reads the Bleacher Report.
"Along the way, Lutz led an adventurous life. In Singapore, he was accused of fixing matches for the Asian gambling Mafia. He spent three months in jail.
In a way, his career reads like a sort of insane movie-script, with wonderous events taking place and unrealistic transfers taking place every year."
And, somehow, that’s the man they wanted to engage as the Warriors’ goalkeeper’s coach.