The CAF Champions League final saga is becoming one of the biggest stories of the year, and not by being a positive one. In a similar way to the Superclasico Libertadores failure that was going from one low to the other, in this case as well - whatever can go wrong - goes wrong.
We decided to try and provide a sort of ‘play-by-play’ chronic to this story so you’ll be able to understand it perfectly.
On Friday, May 31st, Layalt Al-Qadr, one of the holiest nights in Ramadan and the Muslim calendar, Esperance Tunis (Taraji) hosted Wydad Casablanca in Rades Stadium, for the CAF Champions League final second leg. The result in the first leg was 1-1.
The game started pretty well. High pace, intensity, and chances for both sides. Youcef Belaili has scored a beautiful goal for Taraji five minutes before halftime, and the atmosphere was electrifying. 1-0 Taraji Dawla at halftime.
The second half started at the same point the first one stopped. The smoke from Taraji fans pyro show covered the field and referee Papa Bakary Gassama, one of Africa’s & the world’s best officials, had to follow the situation carefully. On the 57th minute, the ‘grenade’ has been thrown.
Wydad equalised by a header of Walid Al-Karti, but the goal was ruled out after Gassama, and his assistants identified a foul during the player’s movement towards the ball. The scenario got shaky.
A few minutes later, after a foul on of Taraji’s players, the mess has started. Wydad’s Mohamed Nahiri demanded Gassama go to the VAR and check the claimed ‘foul’ Al-Karti did during his goal that was cancelled. Gassama refused, and at that point there was no turning back.
The Wydad people were furious. Coach Fauzi Benzarti yelled, the players stopped playing and even the club’s president, Saed Naciri went down to the pitch, the same as Taraji’s president, both with their people, all surrounding Gassama. Wydad’s players left the field and went to the dressing room.
At that moment, around 15 minutes after the game stopped, the rumours started escalating. The VAR system that was present in the stadium wasn’t working. The system was there but wasn’t functioning. Imagine this in a heated final between the Champions League final between Tunisians & Moroccans.
In one moment, Ahmad Ahmad, CAF president himself, went down from his seat to the grass and tried to fix the situation. It did not help. After almost 80 minutes (!) of talking and attempts to solve the problem - Gassama whistled for full time - and Taraji has retained their African Champions League title for the second year in a row. They did this after playing only 61 minutes of football in the second leg. The atmosphere could be seen as weird, or in another word: embarrassing.
Two hours after the game, CAF announced an emergency meeting on June 4th to try and conclude the shambolic circumstances.
Everybody blamed everybody. Wydad blamed CAF & Taraji, Taraji blamed Wydad, and CAF blamed Wydad, the Tunisians and mainly - themselves.
The resolutions were published yesterday by the CAF Executive Committee gathering in Paris: the 2nd leg will be replayed on another ground outside of a Tunisian territory the date & location will be decided after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Taraji Esperance Tunis have to return their medals & cup immediately.
You can guess which word was absent from the Executive Committee’s report: VAR.
Meanwhile, on Thursday it was reported that Taraji won’t bring the medals & the cup back and will take the case to CAS arbitrary. In addition, Ahmad Ahmad was arrested for corruption allegations, Thursday morning in Paris.
if that’s not enough, CAF website has been hacked.
Surprised? Not with CAF. This saga is far from over yet.