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The ultimate penalty

Coach questions call, shot to death on field by referee

Posted: Sunday July 25, 2004 2:15PM; Updated: Sunday July 25, 2004 2:27PM
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -- A South African soccer referee pulled a gun and shot dead a coach who questioned one of his rulings, police said on Sunday.

Inspector Mali Govender of the Grahamstown police in the Eastern Cape province said a fight broke out after the referee gave a yellow warning card to a player in a local match on Saturday.

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"There was an altercation...and the referee became threatened when the other team approached him because they were angry," Govender said. "So he pulled out a gun and killed the coach of the visiting team."

Govender said the coach died on the field while the referee fled the scene. Police were confident of making an arrest soon, she added.

South Africa has one of the world's highest murder rates with an alarming 47.4 murders per 100,000 people, or eight times the figure for the United States.

Scandal won't delay PSL season

Meanwhile, South Africa's Premier Soccer League (PSL) season will kick off as planned next month despite the arrests of 33 referees and other officials in a match-fixing crackdown, a PSL director said last week.

Those arrested over the past five weeks in a police probe code-named Operation Dribble are mostly referees but include club directors and other officials and match commissioners, a police spokesman said.

South African soccer has long been rife with allegations of corruption, but the wave of arrests shocked a soccer establishment still celebrating winning the right to host the continent's first World Cup in 2010.

South African media have speculated that the reduced pool of referees available to officiate at league matches would interfere with the start of the league season on August 7.

"We do have enough referees. ... Operation Dribble doesn't affect the start of the season," PSL finance director Ronnie Schloss told Reuters.

Police spokesman Selby Bokaba said he was not expecting any more people to be arrested in the near future.

"Now it's up to the department of public prosecutions to decide how to proceed. All of them have made brief court appearances," Bokaba said. "We've done our investigation."

All 33 of those arrested have been released on bail, he added.

The investigation was requested by the South African Football Association several months ago after repeated allegations of cheating in the country's lower leagues.

The probe was widened to include the PSL, the most lucrative league on the African continent.

A brief statement on SAFA's website said police had provided it with a progress report on the investigation and confirmed there would be enough referees to start the season as planned.

"The association is satisfied with the result achieved by this exercise," it added.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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