Afghanistan players urge Fifa to look at match-fixing claims against president

Photograph: Harold Cunningham/Fifa/Getty Images

Leading players from Afghanistan’s men’s team have urged Fifa to investigate allegations of match-fixing against the president of the country’s football federation, and confirmed their boycott of the national side will continue until Mohammad Yousef Kargar is removed from his post.

Kargar has denied claims from several former internationals, including the captain, Djelaludin Sharityar, and the goalkeeper, Aimal Gerowal, that he ordered them to fix two matches during a men’s tournament in Malaysia in 2008. The players allege the AFF president worked with the notorious match-fixer, Wilson Raj Perumal, to arrange results of games against Nepal and Sierra Leone at the Merdeka tournament in 2008.

Related: ‘It’s so the young players can have a better future’: why Afghanistan’s men are on strike

Fifa banned the former Afghanistan player, Mohammad Salim Israfeel Kohistani, and six other internationals for life in October 2019 after “an investigation lasting several years” that centred on matches the convicted Singapore-based match-fixer Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes. It has yet to announce whether a new investigation into Kargar’s alleged involvement will be opened.

Last month Kargar was also accused of serious corruption amid claims first made in the Guardian that the AFF had been misappropriating funds intended for investment in developing football in the country. He and the AFF deny the allegations. A group of 21 players led by the captain Farshad Noor, his predecessor Faysal Shayesteh and the Southend midfielder, Noor Husin, went on strike for the World Cup qualifiers against Qatar and Kuwait that Afghanistan lost heavily under their new English coach, Ashley Westwood.

They are not due to play again until facing India in March. In a letter sent to Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, this week and seen by the Guardian, the players outlined frustration at Fifa’s “silence” and said their boycott was “still active”.

“We kindly request and urge Fifa to take the matter at hand seriously,” the letter says. “Not only is the future of football in Afghanistan at risk, but also the families of players in Afghanistan. Fifa’s silence and the prolonged position of Kargar as president are immensely damaging.”

The players believe Kargar was not investigated for match-fixing in 2019 because those involved were “afraid to testify” against their former coach, who took over as president in January that year when his predecessor, Keramuudin Karim, was banned from football for life by Fifa after being accused of sexual abuse.

The letter says: “They are willing to testify against Mr Kargar and the management of AFF that was involved in corruption. This can be seen in the statements the players have provided to the Guardian but also local Afghanistani media.”

Kargar has also been accused of saying that Karim – who was found guilty of sexually abusing at least five Afghani female footballers in June 2019 – had been found guilty because of “false claims”.

“Everywhere where there is work you will see some false allegations,” he said in an interview with 1TVKabul last week. “I never see [the abuse] with my own eyes. If you accuse someone you need witnesses.”

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Asked about his comments by the Guardian, Kargar said: “Nothing I said in the interview was a lie” and that he had never witnessed Karim abusing anyone. He also denied previous allegations that he had threatened players at the tournament in Malaysia and the match-fixing allegations.

“I was just the coach,” he said. “Who am I to threaten them or their families? The two or three players that accused me cannot represent the 20 other players that were present in Malaysia during the tournament.”

It is understood Shayesteh and the other players have contacted the international players’ union, Fifpro, for support and are considering taking legal action if Fifa does not open an investigation.

“We all want to play for our national team,” Shayesteh said. “Fifa should be here to protect the players.”

A Fifa spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Fifa has received a letter from a number of former players from the Afghanistan national team. Fifa will review the contents and allegations that are included, as well as respective jurisdiction and next steps, in accordance with Fifa regulations.”


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