Former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team defender Keyeno Thomas and ex-Police FC and San Juan Jabloteh defender Karlon Murray were among eight footballers banned for life today, according to a statement by world governing body, FIFA.
Thomas, 41, and Murray, 34, were given the ultimate sanction today by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee along with Hellings Mwakasungula (Malawi), Ibrahim Kargbo (Sierra Leone), Kudzanai Shaba (Zimbabwe), Seidath Tchomogo (Benin), Leonel Duarte (Cuba) and Mohammed Salim Israfeel Kohistani (Afghanistan).
A ninth player, George Owino Audi of Kenya, was banned for ten years and given a fine of CHF 15,000 (TT$114,000).
FIFA ruled that the players were guilty of match-fixing—or trying to unlawfully influence match results—in violation of article 69.1 of its Disciplinary Code.
The ruling means the guilty players are ‘banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at both national and international level (administrative, sports or any other) for life.’
Thomas, a giant defender from Point Fortin, made 74 senior international appearances for Trinidad and Tobago between 1998 and 2005—playing alongside the likes of Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy, David Nakhid and Shaka Hislop in a golden era for the local game.
He represented the Colorado Rapids in the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) as well as San Juan Jabloteh and Joe Public in the local Pro League.
Murray never represented the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team but competed at Concacaf Club Championship level with Jabloteh. He has also retired from football and, at present, works as a SRP at E99 in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
The FIFA ruling supposedly followed ‘an extensive investigation into various international matches that Wilson Raj Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes.’
Perumal, a Singaporean, was arrested for match fixing in Finland in 2011 and sentenced to two years in prison.
He subsequently wrote an autobiography detailing his shenanigans in which he claimed to fix games during the 2010 World Cup qualifying series and the Atlanta 1996 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as well as friendlies involving teams such as South Africa, Bulgaria, Colombia, Guatemala, Denmark, Brazil and Tanzania.
FIFA, however, made no high profile convictions and did not give details on the matches whose results Thomas and Murray were accused of having manipulated. The misdeeds seem likely to have occurred during club duty for both players.
Although the charge might shock local football fans, insiders have been aware of allegations of match-fixing in domestic games for years. At present, Pro League players generally receive between TT$2,500 and TT$8,000 a month for their services. However, match-fixers allegedly offer players between US$5,000 (TT$34,000) and US$10,000 (TT$68,000) to manipulate match outcomes.
Wired868 understands that Concacaf investigated more than a dozen Trinidad and Tobago players over the past decade including several international footballers and at least one former World Youth Cup player. During that period, at least two Pro League teams sacked players owing to match-fixing allegations while former National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart confided to staff members that he was troubled by rumours around two of his players—one was selected for one national tour but not recalled while the other featured more regularly in the squad, although he was sparingly used.
Sport attorney Dr Emir Crowne said he was unaware of whether Trinidad and Tobago had a specific statute on its law books that deals with match-fixing but he felt both players could be punished for fraud.
“It doesn’t seem Trinidad has any specific laws geared towards match fixing,” said Crowne, “but there is no reason why match-fixing type offences couldn’t be prosecuted under existing criminal laws that cover cheating, or fraud, or conspiracy to defraud, or false pretences.
“There is no reason why match-fixing wouldn’t be caught under those existing laws anyway. So it is perfectly prosecutable in Trinidad given the existing structure that we have.”
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, an avid sport fan and former top flight hockey player, gave a qualified ‘no comment’ to the ban on the lawman, on account of his current stand-off with the local media.
“Certain arms of the media have their own agenda politically, based on crime and they have been saying I like the limelight,” Griffith told Wired868. “There is a saying that you must be careful what you ask for because you might get it, so for the Paul Richards and Omatie Lyders and so on out there, I am ‘Stephen Williams-ing’ myself.
“I have been putting my neck out and making myself accessible to the media because I understand the importance of the media; but instead they have been trying to embarrass me and lick me up.
“So I am staying away from the media for the next few weeks.”
Wired868 was unable to reach Thomas or Murray up to the time of publication. FIFA claimed the nine players were notified of their fate today.
Terry Fenwick, a four-time Pro League champion winning coach and former England World Cup defender, said he was stunned to know two of his former Jabloteh players were involved in match-fixing.
“I am very shocked by it,” said Fenwick. “It is something that I have never been party to. And to think that something like that could happen in tiny Trinidad and Tobago…”