'Tarnishing image of beautiful game'

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

A prominent soccer administrator was among three men arrested at the weekend during a police clampdown on corruption and match fixing.

Though Polokwane police refused to identify the suspects, Sowetan can reveal that Mvela Golden League side City Pillars' chief executive Peter Koutroulis and head coach Jacob "Cellular" Sakala were bust after police, acting on a tip-off, arrested them for allegedly paying the referee a R1000 bribe on Sunday.

The fiery Koutroulis served as manager under a string of coaches at Mamelodi Sundowns. He served under Jeff Butler, Piert Paskett, Clemens Westerhof, Johnny Ferreira, Ted Dumitru and Paul Dolezar.

The incident that led to the weekend arrests allegedly took place after Pillars' 1-0 win over struggling OR Tambo District Cosmos in their Mvela Golden League match at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Solomon Molamudi, who also officiates in the National First Division, was also arrested and the three suspects are expected to appear in the Polokwane magistrates' court today.

Molamudi is said to have been the link between Pillars' officials and the match officials.

Senior Superintendent Motlafela TC Mojapelo, the provincial police head of communications, confirmed to Sowetan yesterday that three suspects had been arrested for corruption after the Pillars-Cosmos' encounter.

"Obviously, I can't reveal their names because they are still to appear in court. The suspects are aged 40, 48 and 53," Mojapelo said yesterday.

Sowetan has reliably learnt that the match officials, in fact, blew the whistle.

The match was handled by Jacob Frolick and he was helped by Stephen Mashotle and Moses Phale. Robert Sithole was the fourth official and George Lobo the match commissioner.

A police source, who asked not to be named, told Sowetan yesterday that Koutroulis and Sakala were caught red-handed giving the referee the cash at the Holiday Inn after the match.

"They were arrested in front of onlookers at the hotel. Initially they agreed to pay the match officials R4000 but they gave them R1000 and agreed to settle the rest at a later date.

"These guys must face the full wrath of the law because what they did is not good for the image of the game. Look, we are hosting the World Cup finals in 2010, but we still have people denting the image of the game," the source said.

The latest development came while the nation is still waiting for the report from Operation Dribble, established in 2004 to investigate allegations of match fixing and corruption in the local game.

The only referee who was convicted through Operation Dribble was Enoch Hadebe.