JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The African Champions League was again unsettled and undermined by controversy Monday when Ghanaian club Berekum Chelsea denied being offered money by four-time winner and 2010 Club World Cup finalist T.P. Mazembe to lose their final group game.
Less than a month after E.S. Sahel was thrown out of the competition for fan unrest in its Tunisian derby against Esperance, Berekum called a news report in Tunisia "utterly false" after it alleged bribes were offered at a meeting by Mazembe officials to throw Sunday's Group B game.
Mazembe has just returned to the often troubled continental club competition after being disqualified last year for fielding an ineligible player.
The report alleged Mazembe — a surprise finalist at the Club World Cup two years ago — wanted Berekum to lose to it so the Congolese team could finish top of their group and avoid Group A winner and defending champion Esperance of Tunisia in next month's semifinals.
Already eliminated, Berekum won 1-0 to send Mazembe into a two-legged last-four tie against Esperance. Egypt's Al Ahly will play Sunshine Stars of Nigeria in the other semifinal.
"Our attention has been drawn to a publication by a Tunisian news portal that T.P. Mazembe officials offered to bribe Berekum Chelsea to influence the result of our game on Sunday," Berekum chief executive Nana Kwame Nketiah said in a statement Monday. "We wish to state categorically that this report is utterly false."
Nketiah denied any meeting with Mazembe officials took place ahead of the game and warned media "to desist from spreading such false reports or we will be forced to take legal action to salvage our hard-earned reputation."
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