Club in Sierra Leone being investigated for 91-1 win could be promoted
The chief executive officer of Kahunla Rangers, Eric Kartell, condemned his team and the other three clubs involved on social media last month and said he would set up his committee to investigate his side
A second-tier football club in Sierra Leone will be allowed to play in promotion play-offs despite still being under investigation for alleged match manipulation in a game that finished 91-1.
Gulf FC qualified for the Super 10 phase of the league after they defeated Koquima Lebanon 3-0 while closest challengers Kahunla Rangers lost 1-0 to Lumbebu United in replayed matches on Sunday.
The meetings between the respective clubs last month drew global headlines after Kono-based Gulf beat city rivals Koquima by a margin of 90 goals and Rangers, from Kenama, thrashed Lumbebu United 95-0.
Those two results were annulled because of allegations of match manipulation, forcing the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) to launch an investigation.
The four teams involved were suspended by the organizers of the games, the Eastern Region FA (ERFA), an affiliate body to the SLFA.
However, the bans were lifted by the ERFA last Thursday based on the findings of its disciplinary committee, which are yet to be made public.
"Based on the report we got from the ERFA we allowed the matches to be replayed so that we can meet our calendar," SLFA president Thomas Daddy Brima told BBC Sport Africa.
"But that does not in any way mean we have closed the case. We are sending it to Fifa and Caf (the Confederation of African Football) for them to look at it and advise accordingly.
"I can confirm that Gulf FC will be allowed to take part in the Super 10."
Brima has also raised doubts over the scorelines of the matches, which he said were practically impossible, even though the SLFA included the scores in a press statement.
"Nobody is taking this seriously, especially after explaining and people realizing that by whatever standards nobody can score 90 goals in 90 minutes," he added.
The SLFA said it would investigate players and officials from all four clubs involved, designated match officials, and the ERFA.
Yet Gulf FC remains in the hunt for a place in the West African country's Premier League next season, and they will face Lamboi FC in their first game in the Super 10 on Saturday.
The chief executive officer of Kahunla Rangers, Eric Kartell, condemned his team and the other three clubs involved on social media last month and said he would set up his committee to investigate his side.
"I want to state firmly that I strongly condemn such unsportsmanlike behavior displayed by my team, and the other teams involved," Kartell said.
Matches 'were sanctioned'
Meanwhile, there are conflicting accounts from within the ERFA as to whether July's matches, which saw a combined 187 goals scored, were officially sanctioned.
ERFA chairman Prince Saquee, who is also an executive committee member of the SLFA, says as far as he is concerned the games do not count.
"I didn't sanction the said games because of poor weather conditions, inadequate security, and sufficient time for the matches to be played for a full 90 minutes," Saquee told BBC Sport Africa.
"I spoke to match officials [and said] not to go ahead with the matches and as a result, the matches were postponed. I've presented my report to the SLFA."
But the matches Saquee claims were not sanctioned had their results annulled by ERFA, leading to the suspension of the four teams involved.
"Following the unprecedented and unacceptable display of performances between Kahunla Rangers and Lumbebu United and Gulf FC and Koquima Lebanon on Sunday, ERFA, therefore,e,e,e,e,e,e, nullified both matches with immediate effect," the ERFA said in a statement on 3 August.
"The SLFA in collaboration with the ERFA will be setting up an independent investigation committee to probe into the unfortunate situation."
Another statement the following day added: "Following the nullification of the games played in Kenema and Kono, the four clubs whose players' and officials' names were on the team sheets are hereby suspended from all football activities at all categories in the region effective immediately.
"Investigations into the conduct of those matches are now in effect by the ERFA/SLFA."
Meanwhile, the body's media department provided live updates of the two games on social media with the headline reading 'ERFA Super 10 league mid-week/weekend fixtures' followed by the names of the teams, dates, venues, and kick-off times.
The updates stopped when Gulf FC was leading 10-1 in the 55th minute and when Kahunla was 5-0 up in the 60th minute.