Shame of African football

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 10:27:08 +0000

 

SOMEONE must be hanging his head in shame among the participants of the just ended Total Under-20 AfCON championships in Lusaka where it became apparent that some of our esteemed colleagues in West Africa still believe in the powers of darkness to win a football match.

The events of the last two matches in Ndola and Lusaka left Zambians wondering why Africans go to school and church in the first place. If indeed we still believe and trust in the power of magic, juju or traditional herbs to win a sports competition, then we do not deserve to be called educated or Christian.

In the Guinea versus Senegal semi-final at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on 8th March, Senegalese captain and leading striker Ibrahim Niame was injured in the 50th minute. What followed could only be the stuff of Nollywood.

As he lay on the turf Niame calls to his team mate Alion Badji (no. 10) in the video that has gone viral. As Badji together with the referee bend to talk to Niame, the Senegalese captain is seen passing an object to Badji in full view of the referee.

A Guinean player standing nearby protests and alerts the referee to what has happened but the referee incredibly ignores the appeal and walks away.

What happened in the Zambia-Senegal match in Lusaka watched by President Lungu was unbelievable and outright silly on the part of Senegalese players and their technical bench.

Zambia scored their two goals in the first half and as Senegal was sensing defeat, they became desperate. As the referee signals the end of the first half, Senegalese goalkeeper Lamine Sarr feigns injury and lies in the goalmouth as two members of his technical bench run to his aid.

Instead of treating him one of the officials gives Sarr an object which he throws in the net which Zambia will occupy in the second half. He then gets up and walks away without a sign of having been injured. It was apparently all a plan to bewitch Zambia and allow them to score. Sadly for them it did not work.

Soon after, a Senegalese player was ordered by the referee off the pitch to remove some string around his wrist which he concealed under a tennis band. The worst was yet to come. As Senegal prepared to take a free kick in the 59th minute, a Senegalese player is caught on camera walking slowly across the Zambian goal line and throws something in Mangani Banda’s goal.

The Zambian goalkeeper protests together with other Zambian players and they call the referee to see the object. In the melee that followed our Prosper Chilufya picks the object and throws it out of the goal area. The referee only cautioned the perpetrator of the incident, no. 11 of Senegal, with a yellow card.

We chronicle these events because we do not want to be accused of having a grudge against our West African brothers or that we want to bring the African game into disrepute. We are simply appalled and embarrassed by what happened because we were the hosts of that prestigious tournament which took place on our soil.

We urge the Confederation of African Football, personified by long-standing CAF president Issa Hayaou, to crack down on incidents such as these which have given the world the perception that African football is only beginning to come out of the woods. 

There must be a deliberate attempt by CAF and the rest of African football to stamp out these illegalities. Referees must be ordered to deal ruthlessly with culprits. Juju would not thrive in African football if it were not aided and abetted by team officials.

Asked by a Zambian journalist on Sunday during a press briefing if Senegal indeed used juju in the Guinea match, Senegalese coach Jonathan Koto responded: ‘‘I didn’t see what happened. But if it were you involved in a tournament of this magnitude, wouldn’t you prepare yourself?’’

Truly, Senegal prepared themselves ‘‘properly’’ against Zambia – and lost.

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