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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Cameroon referees cry for help
Martin Etonge
BBC Sport, Yaoundé

Cameroonian referee Divine Evehe
Evehe said clubs continue to offer bribes to his colleagues

Referees in Cameroon have called on club owners to stop offering them bribes to influence match results.

The referees made the appeal on Tuesday, during a meeting between club officials, the referees' commission and members of the Cameroon Football Federation, Fecafoot.

"Please stop calling us on the eve of your games," Divine Evehe, regarded as the best referee in the country, told the club owners.

Tuesday's meeting is the first time in Cameroonian football that officials have openly acknowledged the existence of match-fixing that has led to violent incidents at some league games.

Four league and cup matches have been disrupted this month alone, after angry clubs officials and fans accused the referees of accepting money to fix results.

"If you stop making proposals and attempts to corrupt referees, we shall be impartial. Leave us alone," Evehe pleaded.

Another referee revealed that some club owners did not hesitate to use their influential positions in society to victimise referees who refused to accept bribes.

"When you refuse taking money from one club, the officials immediately conclude that it is because you have accepted a 'parcel' from their opponents," lamented Martin Omgba Zing, another international referee.

Tombi A Roko, president of the referees' commission, corroborated the stories of his colleagues.

"I have also been falsely accused of appointing referees who have given me a share of the money they have allegedly collected from clubs."

Jean Rene Atanagana Mballa, Fecafoot's first vice-president, was unsparing in his criticism of referees, saying their corrupt ways had contributed to the poor state of the national championship.

Mballa said Fecafoot would not hesitate to severely punish anyone involved in corrupting match officials.

But Eric Ngaha, general manager of Union Sportive Douala, said his colleagues must share their burden of the responsibility for the problems in the league.

"Some club officials do not even know the rules of the game. So they misjudge referees and manipulate the fans to assault match officials after losing a game."

With 11 out of the 16 first division clubs still in with a chance of winning the title, there are fears that match-fixing in this year's campaign could increase if Fecafoot does not clamp down on errant officials.

A life ban is the most severe punishment that Fecafoot can impose on an official found guilty of match-fixing.

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