Dribbling in a losing game

Bribery of soccer referees is a difficult-to-prove scam which is as old as the game itself.

Bribery of soccer referees is a difficult-to-prove scam which is as old as the game itself.

Most intriguing is that convictions in this regard are a rarity - as are candid admissions from club officials and referees about the existence of the malpractice.

Even the much-vaunted Operation Dribble to ferret out purveyors of this practice in local soccer has not achieved much success.

Launched amid blazing publicity that suggested the imminent arrests of dozens of officials in 2004, the operation turned into a damp squib. Only one referee, Enoch Hadebe, was found guilty and fined in its two-year foray.

So there will be much public interest in the arrest of Mvela Golden League side City Pillars' chief executive Peter Koutroulis and head coach Jacob "Cellular" Sakala, who were arrested for allegedly paying a referee a R1000 bribe on Sunday. The incident allegedly took place after Pillars' 1-0 win over struggling OR Tambo District Cosmos at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Without presuming guilt on the duo's part and also acknowledging their innocence until proven guilty, we hope the state has a watertight case this time around to avoid the embarrassment that characterised Operation Dribble.

Its report on its probe into allegations of match-fixing and corruption in the local game is yet to be released.

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