The events of the recent weeks have made it increasingly clear that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) head honcho may lack the chops to lead
It will only really become apparent, in time, just how seismic, and potentially damaging, the recent weeks have been for the Confederation of African Football.
It is not so much what happens as how one handles it, but it is important to establish what came before.
On the 31st of May, the CAF Champions League final second leg took place in Rades, Tunis. Defending champions, Esperance, fresh from a 1-1 result from the first leg in Rabat, welcomed Wydad Casablanca with the odds firmly stacked in their favour, thanks to the away goal.
However, behind the scenes, trouble had already begun to brew.
Hawk-Eye innovations, tasked with providing the equipment for the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, had been unable to get it across to Tunisia in time. This meant that the second leg would have to be played without it, in contrast to the first.
It is unclear whether or not this state of affairs was relayed to both teams, and whether that would have forestalled what was about to happen. In any case, the match kicked off with the VAR monitor propped up, in what now appears to have been a face-saving move on the part of CAF.
Esperance took the lead five minutes before the break, taking the advantage in the tie, but it did not really change Wydad’s mandate: they had come into the game needing to score anyway. It was all set up for a cracker of a second half.
On the hour mark, however, it all blew up.
Wydad thought they had got an equalizer when midfielder Walid El-Karti darted into the box to head home from a cross. The linesman’s flag, however, went up to annul the goal, a decision which incensed the Moroccan side.
It then returns to what report one believes as to whether both teams were advised beforehand of the absence of VAR. If, as Esperance claim, they were, then what followed by Wydad was gamesmanship of the highest order: they insisted, vehemently, that the goal be reviewed by the system.
Even if one were to believe Wydad’s claim that they were not informed of the technical issues beforehand, it displayed an ignorance of the workings of VAR, as it is not the players’ place to demand a review, as is the case in, say, tennis.
Their protests would hold up the game, pulling CAF President Ahmad Ahmad from the stands and onto the pitch itself in search of a solution to the ensuing mayhem. After a wait that lasted well over 30 minutes, the decision was apparently reached that Wydad’s actions constituted a forfeit, and so the game was awarded to Esperance, as was the trophy.
A presentation took place, and captain Khalil Chemmam held the trophy aloft, celebrating a second Caf Champions League triumph in a row.
That, however, was only the beginning, and set the stage for what could potentially become one of the most damaging decisions in the history of African football.
Wydad, smouldering still at the perceived injustice of it all, decided they would appeal, and after consultations, the president of the Morocco FA, Fouzi Lekjaa, indicated they would be throwing their entire weight behind the complaint. Four days after the final, in Paris, Caf ruled that the second leg should be replayed at a neutral venue, and that Esperance would be required to return the trophy, as well as the medals they had received in the presentation ceremony.
For a number of reasons, it was a worrying decision. For one thing, there has been a suspicion that Ahmad enjoys a lot of support from Morocco, and so this is already being construed as the president of Caf dancing to the tune of his benefactor.
Also, in keeping with the theme but in a broader sense, sub-Saharan Africa has, over time, grown increasingly irritated with North Africa’s entitlement where Caf competition is concerned. That they are now seen to be dictating to Caf does nothing to improve that perception, and will only stoke that resentment.
Optics aside, the precedent it all sets is a concern.
VAR, for all that it is the future, is only a recent addition to the African game, and was only in place for the finals. Surely, the integrity of the event should not hinge and turn upon its presence; indeed, it is not stated in the laws of the game that, in its absence, a game should not take place. This makes Wydad’s refusal to continue tantamount to a forfeit, and as such the initial decision to award the trophy was the correct one, even acknowledging that the Moroccan side has a legitimate grievance (the goal, as TV replays would show, should have been allowed to stand).
The sense of farce would only deepen.
Twelve hours after that decision was reached, Ahmad was arrested and taken in for questioning by the French police.
There were no details released, but reportedly this was to do with a sports equipment procurement contract for the Championship of African Nations in 2018 that was awarded to French company Tactical Steel at a huge mark-up, despite an agreement already being in place with the manufacturers.
While he was eventually released without charge – as Caf have been particularly eager to stress through their various communication channels – it does heighten the sense that Africa’s football leadership is constantly teetering on the brink of chaos, and all it takes is the slightest gust to send it over the edge.
What it does seem like, as each day passes, is that Ahmad’s lack of capacity and suitability for the job will inevitably do him in…the only question is when.
SWAN Congratulates New Sports Minister …Reels Out Expectatios
The Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) has congratulated the newly appointed Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, describing his appointment as well-deserved.
“His appointment as Minister for Youth and Sports represents a new frontier in the administration of sports in Nigeria and one that is expected to usher in dynamism, resourcefulness and focused leadership.
“As the umbrella body of all sports journalists in Nigeria, affiliated to the Association Internationale de la Presse sportive (AIPS) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), SWAN calls on the new Minister to give every Sport adequate attention, unlike some of his predecessors that focused mainly on football to the detriment of others.
A statement issued by the National Secretariat of SWAN and signed by the Deputy Secretary General, Babafemi Raji, noted that over the years, the fortune of Nigeria in international championships had continued to dwindle due largely to lack of concerted effort to discover budding talents that abound in the length and breadth of the country.
“SWAN believes that Nigeria deserves more than what the country is getting from sports in view of the abundance of natural talents in practically every field; hence our hope that you will give priority to grassroots sports.
“Equally of importance to SWAN is the regrettable state of federal government-owned sports facilities; we make bold to say that they are mostly in dire need of rehabilitation, especially the pitch of the now Moshood Abiola National Stadium, where it is evident that anthills are freely springing up due to lack of maintenance.
“The recent embarrassment the country faced after the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) allegedly diverted about $135,000 the world Athletics body mistakenly paid to it, is yet to abate, just as athletes representing the country at international championships were thrown out of their hotel accommodation; amidst cases of unpaid allowances and corruption in the sector.
“SWAN equally expects that the yearly allocation to the sports sector from the federation account will significantly improve, because sports is a huge industry, that if well programmed has the potential to meaningfully engage a lot of the teeming youths.
“SWAN will be ready to support you push for an increase in the allocation that comes to the ministry, by engaging relevant government agencies both at the executive and legislative arms,’’it added.
Enyimba Sure To Thrash Rahimo FC, Sunday
Enyimba FC’s midfielder, Austin Oladapo, has expressed confidence in the ability of the team to overturn the loss into a landslide victory against Rahimo FC of Burkina Faso come Sunday, despite Enyimba’s 0- 1 loss about a fortnight ago in the first leg of the CAF Champions League in Ouagadougou.
Oladapo stated that the team was in form as preparations for the reverse fixture have been impressive, having thrashed Destiny FC 6-1 on Tuesday and secured wins against Diamond Stars, Wilbros FC and NPFL side Delta Force in preceding friendlies.
“I know we can come out as winners on Sunday and make everyone proud come Sunday and we are going to qualify to the next round”, Oladapo said.
It should be noted that the two-time CAF Champions League winners, Enyimba will host the Burkinabes on Sunday in a closed-door match in Aba even though Coach Usman Abdallah said they have not received a formal letter from CAF.
The People’s Elephants must gain a 2-0 win to qualify for the next stage of the competition.
KTF Free Tennis Clinic Ends,’Morrow
This year’s edition of Kodian Tennis Foundation ( KTF) free holiday catch them young tennis clinic will round off tomorrow, at Port Harcourt Club, Old GRA.
The one-month programme which over 160 children attended was designed and aimed to train children on how to play tennis from age five.
Speaking to Tidesports in an exclusive interview, the coordinator of KTF, Stella Epegu, during a training session, Wednesday, at Port Harcourt Club, said this year’s programme was a huge success following the attendance and children committed to learn.
According to her, the significant difference between this edition and the previous ones was that, this year 30 professional tennis coaches were also in attendance to train the children.
“I can say that am happy because the attendance of this year’s programme surpasses the previous year’s. 160 children against 125 previous year’s is quite encouraging”, Epegu said.
She noted that learning any sports at tender age had made so many people become masters in particular sports.
The coordinator thanked parents who registered their children, which gave them the opportunity to discover their talent at a tender age.
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