Tunisian PM hits out at CAF amid African Champions League controversy

Esperance's Moez ben Cherifia celebrates with the trophy after winning the CAF Champions League on June 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 06 June 2019

Tunisian PM hits out at CAF amid African Champions League controversy

  • Esperance were initially handed the title after Wydad walked off an hour into last week’s second leg in Tunis because VAR was unavailable to judge a disallowed equalizer
  • “Following the farce of the CAF, I would like to pay tribute to the work done by the security forces,” tweeted Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed

PARIS: African football’s leading club competition has been thrown into disarray after the announcement that its showpiece game will have to be replayed, with the Tunisian prime minister weighing in to call the handling of the affair a “farce.”
On Wednesday, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said that the Champions League final between Tunisian giants Esperance and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco would be replayed at a neutral venue after the Africa Cup of Nations, which runs from June 21 to July 19.
Esperance were initially handed the title after Wydad walked off an hour into last week’s second leg in Tunis because VAR was unavailable to judge a disallowed equalizer.
Holders Esperance were leading 1-0 in the second leg and 2-1 overall when play was halted, and after a 90-minute delay the referee awarded the match to the home side.
“Following the farce of the CAF, I would like to pay tribute to the work done by the security forces,” tweeted Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
“We will not just give up the rights of Esperance Tunis or those of any other Tunisian team.”
His remark came after criticism of the security around the match as the Wydad players walked off the pitch.
“The playing and security conditions were not met during the second leg of the CAF Champions League final, preventing the match from reaching its conclusion,” CAF presidential adviser Hedi Hamel said following a lengthy executive committee meeting in the French capital Paris on Wednesday.
“As a result, the match will have to be replayed at a ground outside of Tunisia... (and) Esperance will have to the give trophy back.”
“The match will be played after the CAN (Africa Cup of Nations) at a date to be determined,” he added.
Esperance are expected to challenge the decision. A club source said officials would explore all viable options, starting by taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“We’re not going to just fold our arms. It’s an absurd decision and a dangerous precedent that opens the door to other protests during the CAN,” the source said.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who was re-elected head of world football’s governing body on Wednesday, said the incident was “unfortunate” for “Africa’s credibility.”
“I saw there were some problems. It is unfortunate, but that does not justify what happened afterwards of course,” he said.
The build-up to the Cup of Nations has also been blighted by uncertainty after Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights in November having fallen too far behind in its preparations.
That left Egypt, appointed as replacement hosts in January, in a race against time after the country was given just six months to ready itself for the event.
Tunisian media reported that officials were aware before last Friday’s second leg that the VAR system was not working, but the players seemingly did not know.
VAR had played a major role in the first leg of the final in Morocco on May 24, with referrals ruling out a goal by Wydad and later appeals for a penalty by the Moroccans in a 1-1 draw.
The Egyptian referee of that match was subsequently banned for six months with CAF saying his performance was “poor.”


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 6 min 49 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”