Mathurin de Chacus, the president of the Beninese Football Federation (FBF), was not sorry, Tuesday April 27 at the end of the day, after having heard of the decision of the appeal committee of the African Football Confederation (CAF) . She confirmed that the match between Sierra Leone and Benin, which could not be played at the end of March due to an imbroglio around Covid-19 tests, would be postponed to June. The stake of this meeting? Qualification for the final phase of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), in 2022 in Cameroon – Sierra Leone must win while Benin only need a draw.
“This decision is a shame, a real scandal”, plague Mathurin de Chacus, who still has not digested the incident of March 30. That day, a few hours before the kick-off of the match supposed to take place at the National Stadium in Freetown, the Beninese had been informed that five of their players had tested positive for Covid-19 the day before at their hotel. But instead of providing an official document issued by a laboratory, the Sierra Leoneans had produced a simple white sheet with the names of the five players, before demanding their isolation – a request rejected by the Beninese.
An “intimidated” minister
The situation had worsened, while the players and the technical staff of the Squirrels were stranded for several hours in their bus. “ Sierra Leonean policeman even intimidated Mathurin de Chacus and Oswald Homeky, the sports minister, by drawing a gun “, remembers the former international Jean-Marc Adjovi-Boco, present in Freetown as an advisor to the Beninese minister. In the end, the match did not take place and the organizing committee of the CAN had decided to postpone it in June.
But Benin, denouncing fraudulent maneuvers, hastened to put together a file for CAF. “ We have videos of how the tests were carried out in Freetown, under questionable hygienic conditions. The entire Beninese delegation, ie 77 people, had been tested in Cotonou seventy-two hours before the match. There were also tests on return from Freetown, carried out in Cotonou, all negative. And the five supposedly positive players were tested again in France, still with the same result. “, continues Jean-Marc Adjovi-Boco, specifying that the FBF has repeatedly asked the Sierra Leonean federation to send it the official documents – without success.
The Beninese had requested the disqualification of their opponent for obvious cheating, while Sierra Leone demanded a victory by forfeit since Benin had not appeared on the field.
A bad signal
Les Ecureuils stress that the decision of the CAF appeal committee to play this match in June is a bad signal sent to African football.
“This means that even if you try to cheat and get caught, you don’t risk anything. With such a decision, we encourage cheaters and we give Africa a very bad image ”, intervenes midfielder Jodel Dossou (Clermont Foot), one of the five players concerned by the test case: “Me, I had tested positive on March 3 in Clermont, put in solitary confinement and then tested negative. So I developed antibodies and could not be infected again ten days later. It is absolutely outrageous. There is no way I will set foot in Sierra Leone, a country which declares me sick when I am not and which sends its soldiers to our hotel at 2 am to try to place us in isolation. “
CAF did not say whether the match would take place in Freetown or on neutral ground. The president of the FBF plans to appeal of this decision before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) without delay, as he confirmed in World Africa. Contacted, the Congolese Veron Mosengo-Omba, secretary general of CAF, recalled that “The various committees of the instance are sovereign in their decisions “. One way to exonerate the executive from a procedure that risks causing bad publicity to CAF when the South African Patrice Motsepe has just taken the lead.