As the pain of the Super Eagles non-qualification for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) African Cup of Nations “Gabon 2017” gradually eases off, Nigerians have taken to the usual post-match name-calling and blame-gaming of the technical crew and the lads. Vintage.
But this time around, the fans are barking up the wrong tree. Neither Sunday Oliseh nor Samson Siasia should be blamed for the team’s ouster from the race to the continental football showpiece. If anybody is to receive any flak, then certainly it is CAF!
It is no longer breaking news that the Chadian Football Federation, due to financial constraints, withdrew its national team, Les Sao, midway into the qualifying group fixtures for the 31st Edition of the competition, thus leaving Group G with three teams.
Against the backdrop of the Royale Morocco Football Federation pulling out as hosts of AFCON 2015 at the peak of the Ebola virus epidemic, CAF Executive Committee on 15 January 2015 had ruled that “any group reduced to three teams following the withdrawal of a team will have only the group winner qualifying for the final tournament”. That ruling which consummates Article 61 of the regulation of the competition, seemed to have diffused whatever confusion that might arise in a case of withdrawal.
The Chadian conundrum was easily resolved as CAF in a statement confirmed that all the results (points, goals scored, goals conceded) of Les Sao have been annulled. A mini league comprising the other three teams emerged as follows: Egypt 4pts, Nigeria 2pts, and Tanzania 1pt. The Pharoahs, whose position as group leaders has scarcely been threatened, would go on to edge out the Super Eagles by a lone goal in Alexandria. Barring any last minute challenge from Tanzania, the Pharoahs who now boasts of an almost unassailable lead of 7points, will clinch the sole qualification ticket.
However, what the Exco ruling and Article 61 did not resolve, thankfully, are the perennial failings of CAF. It in fact, exposes the Issa Hayatou led body. No rational football institution contrives to exclude one of its traditional big teams and its biggest market like CAF does. And that in itself is self-destructive, counter-productive and growth regressive.
One cannot imagine a FIFA World Cup without Brazil, Argentina or Germany. Nor a UEFA Champions League without Real Madrid or Barcelona!
Yet, this is exactly and effectively what CAF is doing by its complicity to put in place functional mechanisms that would ensure that teams in the qualifying group stage are financially capable of prosecuting all their matches. More indicting, CAF does not have a bail-out plan for member associations going through financial stress. Afterall, the gains far outstrip the disadvantages.
CAF has gone back to sleep pretty satisfied that it did a great job with the $20,000 fine slapped on Chad. But the questions remain. Does that pittance equate potential loss of millions of dollars from sponsorship deals as a direct result of the Super Eagles non-qualification for AFCON Gabon 2017? Does that fine equals tons and tons of forex that would have been spent by Nigerian tourists in Gabon had the Super Eagles picked Group G runners up ticket?
By opting to go with the easy path of a group shake-up, a ban and fine for Chad, CAF is shortchanging itself, dragging the AFCON competition backwards, and making African football the ridicule of the global game.
Someone or a group of persons in CAF failed to do their job, and now a whole nation is still hurting. It is high time the continental body put its house in order, else Nigeria would be forced to export millions of redundant brooms to 6th of October City Egypt, headquarters of CAF.
Article By : Ekene.S.Imelikachi(Epicpen)