President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, has been vindicated on his stance against the order for a replay of the second leg of the 2019 Champions League made by the Confederation of Africa Football Executive Committee.
Following appeals lodged by the two clubs, Esperance of Tunisia and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, the Court of Arbitration for Sports ruled, on Wednesday, that the CAF Executive Committee “did not have jurisdiction” to make the order. It directed that the matter should be referred to the “competent CAF authorities” to decide.
When the CAF Executive Committee sat by the side of the FIFA Congress in Paris to take the decision, Nigeria’s Pinnick was the only member who opposed the recommendation, pointing out that it was utterly wrong and destructive of football for the policymaking body to disregard the authority of the referee in a game.
Seeing that Ahmad was intent and had skewed the deliberations of the Executive Committee to arrive at the order, Pinnick took leave before the resolution was passed. It was at that point that the plot not to renew his mandate as CAF 1st Vice President thickened.
Before then, Pinnick had, in a letter of passionate concern, appealed to the CAF President to check his arbitrariness and “graciously and magnanimously allow all departments of CAF to do their job without interference.”
“We also need to engage CAF legal and governance structures and indeed have extensive consultations before major decisions are taken,” Pinnick had also advised.
Had Ahmad listened to this voice of reason and not deluding himself in the ecstasy of sycophancies and dirty, divisive politics of pitching Francophone and Anglophone Africa against each other for his selfish gains, CAF would have avoided the negative exposures in which it is now progressively miring itself.
Indeed, while the Champions League miscarriage points to Ahmad’s poor judgment in directing CAF, the CAS ruling invariably yellow cards his unbridled propensity to overreach his powers with disregard for institutional governance, a vice that has continued to dip African football into disrepute as now underscored by the resolution for FIFA to take over the management of the confederation for the next six months.
The Esperance vs Wydad incident is not a strange occurrence in football such as would warrant the naivety with which Ahmad handled the matter: both teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Morocco. Espérance was leading 1-0 in the second leg in Tunisia when Gambian referee Bakary Gassama disallowed what would have been Wydad’s equaliser in the 59th minute. The Wydad players asked for a VAR review but there was no VAR. It was said that officials of both sides had been briefed that there would be no VAR.
The Wydad players staged a walk out and abandoned the game. All entreaties by top CAF officials, including Ahmad, to get them back to play, were refused. After over 90 minutes of hold up, the referee decided to end the game and awarded the match to Esperance who at that point were 2-1 ahead on aggregate. The trophy was presented to Esperance in a CAF ceremony. Weeks later, same CAF Executive Committee decided to recall the match and ordered a replay. That became the subject of the dispute at CAS.
While many African fans were embarrassed that a big organisation like CAF could not deploy VAR which is now globally commonplace, it is even more worrisome that Ahmad would lead the Executive Committee to interfere and upturn the decision of a referee in total disregard of the basic laws of the game which gives the referee the final say.
Law 5 of football is simple and universal. It states clearly that “each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game. Decisions will be made to the best of the referee`s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the spirit of the game and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game. The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final. The decisions of the referee and all other match officials must ALWAYS be respected.”
Isn’t it a shame, therefore, that Ahmad chose to violate such primary law of the game to subject the outcome of a match to the patronage of his political associates with a view to currying their support to preserve himself in power, as many now suspect?
With any little rustle, Ahmad’s CAF betrays frightening incompetence. It will be recalled that in the 2019 CAF Confederation Cup match between RS Berkane of Morocco and Zamalek of Egypt, the Moroccan football federation president, Fouzi Lekjaa, assaulted Ethiopian referee Bamlak Teseema Weyesa for making an unfavourable call. The CAF Disciplinary Committee headed by Raymond Hacks rightly recommended a minimum of one year ban and €50,000 fine on him, but Ahmad has continued to disregard the committee and the need to apply the sanction as deterrence against such primitive impunity. Rather,
he has rewarded Lekjaa’s thuggery with promotion as CAF 2nd Vice President.
As it stands now, the conclusion of the 2019 CAF Champions League is a long way away. Expectedly, even with the admonition by CAS, Ahmad may still wallow in his misuse of power and dig deeper into the mud by compromising the “competent authority of CAF” to resolve the conflict in favour of politics rather than the sanctity and integrity of the beautiful game.
But, the world is watching as he continues to dance African football naked in the market place, all in the name of power.
Fred Edoreh writes from Lagos. He is a Former Chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Lagos chapter.
Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Aledeh’s.