Kenya's Harambee Starlets ahead of a past game against Swaziland. They are now staring at nothing in particular after a late call on Wed 7 Nov 2018 by CAF knocked them out of the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations that kicks off on 17 November, 2018 in Ghana. FKF is set to appeal to CAS over CAF's call to reintegrated Equatorial Guinea in their place
AWCON 2018: CAF’s ill-timing a travesty of justice
By Patrick Korir | Thu 08 Nov, 2018 17:10
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Time is of the essence – so goes the saying. But to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) their essence of time needs time.

Two key happenings in under a week have put the overseer of the African game on the spot after mistimed calls, and their seriousness, lack of, in handling African football.

On 1 November, the body announced that the draw for the preliminary rounds of the 2018/2019 CAF Interclubs (read Champions League and Confederations Cup) will be held on Saturday, 3 November, 2018 in Rabat, Morocco, during the meeting of the Ad hoc Committee of the CAF Interclubs.

With bated breath, teams refreshed the CAF pages to find out their opposition to kick-start their due diligence on them to plan accordingly. Close to a week later they are still at it; refreshing CAF pages and waiting.

No immediate communication followed on the day of the failed draw, and as clubs kept fingers on keypads, CAF deemed it germane to instead upload player profiles from Kenya and Nigeria on their official portal.

Thereafter, a statement followed with no time frame for the draw. A statement said in part; “. . . . because of the specificity of this transitional season due to the change of dates of Interclubs, a decision will be taken by the Committee of Emergency of Confédération Africaine de Football in a short time,”

“This special situation due to the delay of dates will be brought to the Emergency Committee of the Executive Committee of CAF for decision.”  

Why did CAF then announce dates for a draw when there were underlying matters to be discussed prior to the draw, for approval? The suspense is uncalled for, and is baffling.

A few weeks back, on Wednesday 17 October, CAF delivered a verdict – that Equatorial Guinea had been banned from participating in the upcoming African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) to be held in Ghana and in their place Kenya had been reintegrated.

The call was borne of a Kenyan complaint submitted back on 9 June before Match no. 30 against the West African nation. Four months later - exactly a month to the showpiece - the deliberation arrived; too late in the day.

In their protest letter, Kenya sought answers on eligibility of six players, but on one particular one; Anette Jacky Messomo who they picked out as a Cameroonian national.

CAF upheld the appeal and knocked out Equatorial Guinea. As the West Africans were left in shock, it was a mixed uptake for Kenya who, given the period to the event, had zero expectation, but nonetheless pepped up for a second successive AWCON showing after their debut appearance in 2016.  

Emerging details denote the case was attended to by CAF’s Disciplinary Council on September 8, 2018, two months after it was submitted, but support investigations delayed the final call to mid-October.

Notwithstanding, and in the wake of that lateness, Kenya’s Harambee Starlets hit the camp trail in readiness for the event.

Having their initial case upheld, the Kenyan girls were thrown to the ballot for the draw held on 21 October where they were banded with champions Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa in pool B.

As they put the final pieces with last mile preps CAF popped up with a real heartbreaker on 7 November; that Equatorial Guinea had made a successful appeal and would be taking up their place at AWCON in place of Kenya – ten days to the event!

According to CAF, the decision was reached by the Appeals Board after it found Equatorial Guinea’s case admissible.  

In between the breaking news to Kenya, of a place at AWCON, and the news that broke them on Wednesday, there was no mention by CAF of an appeal by Equatorial Guinea that could have prepared them for an eventuality. It was a simple, unseen swinging hammer blow.

Now back, is Equatorial Guinea prepared? And if Kenya got another chance in the remaining days at their expense, again, would they be in the right state of mind to compete?

To say the least, it’s a travesty of justice. Not particularly in the merit of Kenya’s upheld case, or the successful appeal by Equatorial Guinea, but in timing of deliberations by CAF.

Be what it may, a June protest by FKF, it being upheld in mid-October and the reversal by the Appeal Board in early November took a whole of five months. It’s unacceptable.

Ramification of the late call could be grave, as FKF, backing a hard done Starlets, will be seeking redress through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) as soon as is practical with a view of getting Starlets’ place back, and to have the tournament postponed altogether.

Failure to act within a time required constitutes a breach; in this case, it’s against fair play that World governing body FIFA adjudicates.

As the Kenyan girls cry over a possibly missed chance of a lifetime to grace another AWCON, CAF should be educated on timeliness as there must be a window within which protests and appeals, investigations and counter-appeals are sealed – and that CANNOT be ten days to a major African event!

Patrick Korir

Twitter: @tipkorir

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