Africa hopes stars can shine in Egypt after officials cause shame

Johannesburg (AFP) – Top African football officials hope the history-making Cup of Nations in Egypt from June 21 can deflect attention away from a string of embarrassing incidents involving them.

In recent weeks, CAF president Ahmad Ahmad and senior vice-president Amaju Pinnick and VAR have been dominating the headline space usually reserved for stars like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Malagasy Ahmad was questioned by French authorities last week during a probe into corruption, breach of trust and forgery amid reports that CAF illegally changed kit suppliers.   

Former CAF secretary general Amr Fahmy from Egypt was sacked recently after making various serious accusations against Ahmad.

These include corruption, sexual harassment, nepotism and a disregard for CAF statutes by an official who succeeded long-serving Issa Hayatou two years ago on an anti-graft ticket.

While Ahmad being questioned in France caused huge embarrassment, the first Cup of Nations with 24 teams and the first to be staged in June and July was receiving lesser prominence. 

Meanwhile, the Nigerian High Court has ordered Pinnick and four other football officials to stand trial for allegedly stealing millions of dollars intended for football development. 

And if the image of CAF was not tainted enough, there was a farcical scene in the second leg of the Champions League final with Wydad Casablanca walking off over a disallowed goal.

The Moroccan club wanted the goal referred to VAR only to discover that the system malfunctioned before the match began and could not be used.

Ahmad and his executives later ruled that the second leg against Esperance Tunis, who were leading 2-1 overall when the second leg was abandoned, must be replayed.

There have been numerous VAR controversies since its introduction in Africa last year and it is due to be used during the Cup of Nations, reportedly for the knockout stages.

The 2019 Cup of Nations has had its share of drama too as Egypt were named hosts only this January to replace Cameroon, who had fallen behind with preparations.

Then, the dates were changed as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia said players needed more time to recover from Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

Tunisia also wanted certain kick-off times altered, saying the temperatures during afternoon fixtures could exceed 40 degrees celsius (104 fahrenheit), particularly in Cairo.

– Egypt slight favourites –

Mediterranean city Alexandria, Ismailia and Suez are the other venues for the tournament with hosts Egypt slight favourites to become champions a record-extending eighth time.

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