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Can a team win 79-0? Police probe fantasy football scores

By Piers Edwards, CNN
updated 7:48 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
The ball hit the back of the net a combined 146 times on Monday as two amateur teams in Nigeria battled to reach the league.
The ball hit the back of the net a combined 146 times on Monday as two amateur teams in Nigeria battled to reach the league.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nigeria Football Federation refers "scandalous" results to police for investigation
  • Plateau United and Police Machine won 79-0 and 67-0 respectively
  • World governing body FIFA tells CNN it is monitoring Nigeria Football Federation's actions

(CNN) -- It's not every day that just two football matches produce a cricket score -- in this case an incredible 146 goals -- and Nigerian football authorities are so suspicious of the games in question that they have been referred to the police as a "criminal matter."

As both Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine FC battled to reach the fifth tier of the Nigerian football league on Monday, the amateur sides racked up 79-0 and 67-0 wins respectively.

At half-time, the teams had managed a relatively meager 13 goals between them -- only for the avalanche to begin as the teams tried to outdo one another on goal difference.

Read: Nigeria win 2013 Africa Cup of Nations

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) indefinitely suspended the winning sides and their beaten opponents as it launched an investigation into an incident it termed "a mind-boggling show of shame never previously witnessed in Nigerian football."

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The scores were the biggest seen in African football since Madagascar's AS Adema won 149-0 in a 2002 match where losing side Stade Olympique l'Emyrne scored numerous own goals in protest at a refereeing decision.

"We have reported the matter to police as it is a criminal matter," the NFF's Assistant Media Director Ademola Olajire, told CNN.

"They will do their due diligence, and we will also do our own investigation. The results of our investigation are likely to result in very, very severe penalties for all involved. The clubs may be banned for life."

One of the losing sides, Bubayaro, has already been disbanded by its president following their thrashing by Police Machine FC, while Akurba FC were the side who shipped 79 goals.

Like the NFF, Bubayaro owner Shuaibu-Gara Ahmed Gombe also referred the incident to police in Bauchi State, which is where the playoff matches took place.

But those associated with the club cannot wash their hands of the matter by simply closing Bubayaro down, says Olajire.

"We still have details of their officials," he explained. "They still exist as people and they will have to answer to the police."

Read: South African soccer chief suspended in match-fixing scandal

In its initial statement, the NFF described the results as "scandalous".

The material benefit for whichever side won promotion was minimal, says Olajire, and the players themselves would gain little by stepping up a division. Even wages for those playing in Nigeria's elite Premier League rarely top $200 per month.

"Getting into the (fifth) division is no great shakes financially," the NFF media spokesman said.

"Even clubs in the second division struggle to make ends meet. There is sponsorship for teams in the Premier League but very little compared to what they pay to play games around the country."

Football's world governing body FIFA is also interested in what action the NFF takes.

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"The matter is firstly the responsibility of the Nigerian Football [Federation]," FIFA told CNN in a statement. "Therefore FIFA is currently monitoring the situation and waiting for action taken by the Nigerian [federation]."

As they entered the third and final round of matches to determine which team would gain promotion to the Nationwide League Division 3, Plateau United and Police Machine were level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

Both sides had managed a total of just two goals in their previous two games but at halftime in the decisive matches, Plateau United were 7-0 up and holding the advantage as their opponents had scored one fewer.

The second half witnessed a tsunami of goals, with United netting on 72 occasions and Police Machine plundering 61 strikes themselves.

Police Matter

One thorny issue for those leading the inquiry is that Yola-based Police Machine are a side that represent Nigeria's police force.

"This will be a very dispassionate job," the NFF's Olajire added. "We believe the police will do a fair job, no matter that a police team is involved.

"I want to assure you that this matter will interest the Director General of police, Mohammed Abubakar, who is a former member of the NFF board."

CNN tried to contact police authorities in Nigeria but they were not immediately available for comment. Neither were officials from clubs that traditionally lack presence both domestically and online.

News of what leading NFF official Mike Umeh has called a "scandal of huge proportions" come in a year when Nigerian football has been on the up.

Earlier this year, the West African country won the Africa Cup of Nations when beating Burkina Faso in the final, the Super Eagles' first continental title since 1994 and their third overall.

However, Olajire does not believe the playoff farce will be of any detriment to the standing of Nigerian football around the world.

"You have people who try to break the law everywhere. What matters are the steps that are taken next. We want to assure you that the NFF is on top of this."

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