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.
‘I Can Discover Ballon d’Or Winners In Nigeria’
Ex-Nigeria international Usman Abdallah has declared that he can help the country groom future Ballon d’Or winners if he is handed the U20 job.
Abdallah, who led Enyimba to win the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League and a Confederation Cup semi-final finish, is favourite to replace Paul Aigbogun for the Flying Eagles’ head coach role.
His outstanding CV features a Uefa A license, a degree in football coaching and team management (France) and a Strength and Conditioning level 1 coaching certificate in Australia.
According to reports, the Nigeria Football Federation will announce the Franco-Nigerian in the coming days, a claim the tactician is unsure of when quizzed by newsmen.
“Just like every other person, I applied for the job but I’m yet to get confirmation if I was picked or not.
“Nigeria is my country and it will be nice if I eventually get this role because it will be a big chance to serve. Also, I have what it takes to discover future Ballon d’Or winners for the country.
“Without sounding immodest, I strongly believe that I will excel in this position not only because of my wealth of experience but because of my closeness to grassroots football.
“As I have always said, this level deserves a lot of serious work because players picked at this level form a pivot of future Super Eagles,”he told newsmen.
After a failed expedition at the 2019 Fifa U20 World Cup in Poland, Nigeria will be hoping to qualify for Indonesia 2021 through the Africa U20 Cup of Nations scheduled for Mauritania.
Champions, Europa Leagues Finals Likely For August
The Champions League and Europa League look increasingly likely to be played exclusively in August after more talks about the remainder of the 2019-20 season on Wednesday.
Uefa told the 55 associations on Tuesday there was still the possibility of the competitions being played throughout June, July and August.
But Tidesports source understands that the latest discussions revolved almost exclusively around a plan to complete the domestic leagues by 31 July, with European competition following after that.
Nothing definitive has been agreed but Uefa is keen to leave all options on the table for as long as possible given the general uncertainty across Europe and in the knowledge there is no guarantee the season will be finished.
However, there is a view that travel restrictions are more likely to have eased in August, which would be necessary for a cross-border competition.
The scenario envisaged would be for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the respective European competitions to be played as two-legged ties between 11 and 22 August, although these could yet become one-off games.
In the plans now being discussed, there would be some flexibility for domestic fixtures to be played in August, should a July conclusion prove impossible.
The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy, two countries that have been badly affected, there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively – although both have fewer cup games to fit into their schedules.
Uefa hopes the situation will become clearer in the next fortnight but completing the season in this way would cause the least disruption to its qualification competition for the 2020-21 season, which was supposed to start at the end of June but has been delayed indefinitely.
S’Eagles’ll Miss Mikel, Ighalo -Etebo
John Obi Mikel and Odion Ighalo would remain a big miss for Nigeria, concedes Oghenekaro Etebo, with the Super Eagles still coming to terms with their retirement.
After the Super Eagles clinched third-place at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the duo drew the curtains on their international careers.
Mikel, 32, was the first to bow out before Egypt 2019 top scorer Ighalo followed the path of the former Chelsea star.
Coach Gernot Rohr is prepared to put faith in the likes of Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen as replacements for the duo.
The Getafe man said it was clear that the three-time African kings would miss Mikel and Ighalo for their leadership attributes, but believes Osimhen can fill the vacuum left by the Manchester United striker.
“They are leaders who we are going to be missed in the dressing room,” he stated.
“Mikel was a leader; I recall how he helped us during the Olympics when we had issues during our preparations for the Games. Not because I played with him but for the impact he had on me as a player.
“They helped the team make vital decisions during tough times and I guess it was just time for them to move on.
“Ighalo on his part is a goal poacher that we also miss but thank God that we have another goal poacher in [Victor] Osimhen, but we have to be patient with him to settle in well into that role.”
After the coronavirus pandemic, Rohr is expected to begin life without the retired players as Nigeria would be hoping to qualify for the 2021 Afcon billed for Cameroon.
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