The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: I Could Not Resist but Wonder Why African Football Appears to Be a Classic Example of a Latter-Day Animal Farm

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"For you information, for each Nations Cup Caf, through a satellite company, makes between 40 millions euros to 50 million. Each African TV station must pay its dues to an offshore bank account into the

Bahamas or Switzerland. After each Nations Cup, those bank accounts are closed. Go and get the 2006, 2008 and 2010 contract between the Caf TV right holder and your national TV station."

MAMADOU Gaye is known as the Assassin of Abidjan, a no-holds-barred football analyst who has made a big name for himself as a pundit after a low-level playing career that ended in the amateur ranks.

He is a lifelong fan of ASEC Mimosas, the team that controversially beat Dynamos to be crowned champions of Africa 15 years ago, and works as a consultant in South Africa with vast interests in football.

His frank, and often controversial, criticism of African football has won him as many friends as enemies and, as a member of SuperSport's panel of experts, he has a huge medium to preach his gospel.

He has been a regular feature on the weekly magazine programme, Soccer Africa, alongside Thomas Mlambo, Thomas Kwenaite and Idah Peterside, the Nigerian footballer-turned-pundit who was seated in our enclosure as we watched Sunday's Nations Cup final at Soccer City.

Mamadou told SuperSport's online readers, in an online discussion with his fans on SuperSport.com two years ago, that he met a Zimbabwean nurse in England and they got engaged and he comes here, quite often, to visit his fiancée's relatives.

A number of Zimbabweans say they like Mamadou because he appears to have a soft side for their nation, and that is probably explained by his romantic link to this country, but he is not so well liked in West Africa.

He is considered a lunatic, in the part of the continent, who doesn't see anything positive in football, beyond the borders of his native Cote d'Ivoire, and he has been a subject of some savage attacks in newspaper and online editorials and blogs in Ghana and Nigeria.

Mamadou is unapologetic about his stance, on age-cheating in the junior national teams of Ghana and Nigeria, who seemingly do very well in world youth championships but the players never grow out of their youth to make formidable teams that can make a big impression in the World Cup.

The reason, Mamadou says, is because the men that the Ghanaians and Nigerians send to the World Under-17 and World Under-20 championships, disguised as teenagers, would already be at the peak of their careers and cannot develop any further after that.

"I am an African, I feel sad when I see people taking pride of winning Under-age tournaments. Africa won all the Under-age tournaments in various categories but failed to ever make it the semi-final of the World Cup where age counts for nothing," Mamadou said in that SuperSport online chat with his fans.

"We know that all those Under-age trophies were won with age-cheating. If you can beat Germany, Brazil at Under-20 and Under-23, why not at senior level where there is no age limit? Stop age-cheating in our football and let be proud about genuine achievement."

He is a fierce critic of Caf president Issa Hayatou and says the Cameroonian strongman has done nothing to help uplift African football in his lengthy term in charge of the game.

Mamadou believes the rot will continue, because it will be business as usual at Caf, since African football is full of cowards who don't have the strength to challenge Hayatou and would rather join the bandwagon and enjoy the luxury of the gravy train.

"Under the 23 years of Hayatou presidency, there are more negatives than positives," Mamadou says in that online chat on SuperSport.

"Caf, under the 23 years of Hayatou presidency, is a cartel. You look at the executive committee of Caf, there is no former player. Most football federations in Africa are biased towards Hayatou and receive instructions from him who to vote in or out.

"Africa must get rid of this cartel. I'm critical of Caf and Hayatou because they have failed Africa. Ask your national television what is Caf doing with the TV rights money of each African Nations Cup?

"Unfortunately, African football is full of cowards, nobody dares challenge Hayatou but the first one to come out will became the next president of Caf. Unless we effect changes in the management, no African country will win the World Cup. Get rid of the cartel, then Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire or Senegal will win the World Cup.

"Let's bring in new administrators and Africa will shine. The disease is Caf. Africa must unite to get rid of the dictatorship of Caf. Not long ago we were better than the Asians. Today we occupy the bottom seat in world football under 23 years of the football dictatorship of Issa Hayatou.

"Caf is a mess, they are not concerned about developing the game but about what he (Hayatou) and his cronies can make out of the game. That's why we need a change."

Mamadou also believes there is something significantly wrong about African football and Caf and its leaders have to be held accountable.

"Caf is the only continental body where our countries spend millions of dollars to qualify and play in the Nations Cup. At the end of the tournament you win the Cup and there is no incentive, no prize money," he says in the same online SuperSport conversation.

"Everywhere in the world you get enough incentives to cover all your costs. Go to your national television and ask them how much do they pay for the African Nations Cup TV rights? For you information, for each Nations Cup Caf, through a satellite company, makes between 40 millions euros to 50 million.

"Each African TV station must pay its dues to an offshore bank account into the Bahamas or Switzerland. After each Nations Cup, those bank accounts are closed. Go and get the 2006, 2008 and 2010 contract between the Caf TV right holder and your national TV station."

When Refereeing Loses Its Soul

One of the subjects that Mamadou touched and discussed at length, in his online conversation with fans, was inevitably the match officiating, the bulk of it diabolical, which dominates the game on the continent.

"The referees are the images of Caf, corrupt, poor and unprofessional," said Mamadou.

The Ivorian was one of a battery of African football experts that SuperSport lined up to provide in-depth coverage of the 2013 Nations Cup finals and, as expected, he was firmly behind his Elephants to finally find the magical formula to avoid choking on the grand stage.

But Mamadou didn't last the distance, in the SuperSport studio, during the 2013 Nations Cup finals when his insinuation, that Zambia received a soft penalty against Nigeria because of Kalusha Bwalya's growing influence in Caf, was deemed out of line.

Reports suggest that Kalusha and his Football Association of Zambia leadership wrote a strong protest, to SuperSport, and as defending champions then, their word carried a lot of weight and the pay-per-view television giant's directors were forced to act.

Some Zambian fans in South Africa threatened to storm the SuperSport studios in Randburg in protest over the way Mamadou had cast doubt on the integrity of their Chipolopolo. Mamadou told the online Ghana Soccernet website that he was unceremoniously dropped from the later stages of the Nations Cup matches.

"I was booked to do certain games for the Africa Cup (but) I was just called not to come to studio in the meantime," Gaye said.

SuperSport said they had the right to decide who features, and doesn't feature, on their programmes. "Mamadou Gaye is a freelance analyst on SuperSport and we reserve the prerogative to schedule him as and when the need arises," said head of communications at SuperSport Clinton van de Berg.

Nigerian 'keeper, Vincent Enyeama described the penalty awarded to the Zambians as the worst form of officiating he has witnessed in his lengthy career, the Nigerian Football Federation filed an official protest and Caf responded by sending Egyptian referee, Gehad Grisha, home.

The match officiating, at the last Nations Cup, was at best a joke and, at worst, a fraudulent act and South African referee, Daniel Bennet, appeared to be doing everything possible to ensure that Togo lost, and Tunisia advanced, in a key group game.

Bennet somehow booked the wrong player, ignored a clear double foul on Emmanuel Adebayor, when through on goal, inside the area, which was a stonewall penalty coupled with other sanctions for the offender, and then gave Tunisia a dubious late penalty.

"It's a shame, the worst officiating we have seen in this fine tournament," former Nigeria captain, Sunday Oliseh, who worked as a SuperSport pundit during the Nations Cup finals, said. Somehow the football gods intervened and Tunisia missed the gift penalty and, after a 1-1 draw, it was Togo who advanced to the quarter-finals.

A few days ago, Soccer Laduma, the South African football website, ran an online poll on Bennet asking its readers to tell them if they believe strong action should be taken against the referee for his bad officiating at the 2013 Nations Cup finals on home soil.

Fifty-two percent of the respondents said "YES, he should not be allowed to referee in the PSL," 30 percent of the respondents said "No, he makes a few mistakes but he is still a good referee," and 18 percent of the respondents said "If he makes any more strange decisions then action should be taken."

The worst refereeing performance came in a tight semi-final between Burkina Faso and Ghana where Tunisian referee, Slim Jdedi, appeared desperate to frustrate the Burkinabe and promote the interests of the Black Stars. It was so awful that the Caf leaders, watching this drama unfold, must have felt ashamed of themselves and the programmes that select such referees, who should be the best that Africa can offer, and give them the responsibility to take charge of such a big football festival.

Jdedi gave Ghana as soft a penalty as they will ever come at this stage of the game, denied Burkina Faso two penalties that looked so obvious only a madman, or one working on certain instructions, would turn down and ruled out what looked a genuine killer goal for the underdogs.

Somehow, against all this injustice, the Burkinabe battled on, won more friends along the way, and appeared to derive strength and inspiration from a playing field that was significantly not level and the nightmare inflicted by a referee plucked from hell.

By the time the match reached the 117th minute mark, with only three minutes of extra time left, Jdedi struck again with the worst possible decision seen at the Nations Cup finals in living memory.

A swift Burkinabe counter attack appeared to have caught the tiring Black Stars off guard and when the ball was moved to Jonathan Pitroipa, a magician when it comes to dribbling, danger loomed for the Ghanaians as the move swept into their penalty area.

Pitroipa was tripped, inside the area, and went down but the penalty that the offence deserved was not given by Jdedi and, as the world watched in horror, the referee flashed his yellow card, accusing the Burkinabe of diving when it was clear he had been fouled, and Ghana survived.

The second yellow card meant Pitroipa had to leave the stadium prematurely and, crucially, would miss the final if his team prevailed, which they did in the penalty shoot-out lottery, but Caf, moved by the degree of the injustice, moved in, sent Jdedi home and nullified the forward's expulsion.

Animal Farm, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others

So, Africa cheered when Pitroipa ran onto the pitch on Sunday night at Soccer City in the biggest game for his country and I could tell, as I watched the game from inside the vast stadium, that there were more people supporting Burkina Faso than Nigeria.

It's expected, isn't it, that a lot of people love the underdog and the Burkinabe, playing their first Nations Cup final, were underdogs and, having had to fight all the injustice inflicted on them by the referee, in their semi-final showdown, they had the sympathy of many neutrals.

Some said the Nigerians are cocky, they have this Big Brother attitude that comes from their strength in numbers, more than 150 million people at the last count, and a Super Eagles' victory would only make the Nigerians feel bigger, better, tougher, whatever you call it, which ultimately ends up describing arrogance.

From where I watched the final, I was part of the minority that was supporting the Super Eagles, alongside Idah Peterside, and I was happy that an African coach was competing to win the Nations Cup because these are guys whom I have always invested my trust in. Pitroipa played the entire 90 minutes, because Caf overturned the red card, Jdedi and Grisha were already home, having failed to pass the test as referees, and Bennet could not officiate a Nations Cup final, on home soil, because he had blundered terribly in the group games.

It was only fair, after the injustice that had been inflicted on the Burkinabe by the referee, that Pitroipa should play in the final and that he failed to shine, and inspire his team to greatness, in a tight and tactical game, had little to do with Jdedi and much to do, probably, with the occasion. But as I watched the game unfold under the lights of Soccer City, I could not resist but wonder why African football appears to be a classic case of Animal Farm, where all countries are equal but some countries are more equal than others.

I couldn't help but see all this as a betrayal of the reality that happens in African football, every day, every week, every month and every year, a cosmetic show that was nothing but a fluke, being stage- managed for an international audience to give an impression that the game on the continent is an oasis of Fair Play.

I found it repulsive that things should change, referees should be sanctioned for poor performance, red cards should be revoked, all because we were now at a grand stage, now that the European journalists were here with us, now that Fifa president Sepp Blatter was around to witness the grand finale. I found it comical that things should be done differently, dressed in borrowed robes, a far cry from the reality of what unfolds in African football every day, every week, every month, simply because the focus of the world was now on us, the television cameras were rolling and the Fifa heavyweights were in town.

For goodness sake, how long have we been crying, day-in-and-day-out, week-in-and-week-out, month-in-and-month-out and year-in-and-year-out, that the officiating in the Champions League is, at best, a sickening joke and at worst a gigantic fraud and noone at Caf, from Hayatou right to the guy who serves them tea at their headquarters in Cairo, has cared to listen to us?

How long have we been crying that teams always receive a raw deal, in terms of refereeing, when they play away from home in the qualifiers of the Nations Cup, and noone from Caf has dared to listen, let alone taking measures to ensure that the rot is stopped and a level playing field is created?

You can't try to correct the situation, at the Nations Cup final, while ignoring the rotten system, pregnant with referees who play for other teams, which brought these very teams to the top table and, tragically, ensured that some deserving teams would stay at home?

When Lloyd Mutasa cried foul, loud and clear, that Egyptian referee Fahim Omar had wrecked Dynamos' Champions League dreams, with a devilish performance in Algiers that helped MC Algers overturn a 1-4 first leg deficit by winning 3-0, why didn't the Caf leaders listen to him the way they did when Burkina Faso cried foul, and the world cried with them, after what happened in their semi-final tie against Ghana?

Is it okay that Guthrie Zhokinyi should be sent off, in questionable circumstances as happened that night in Algiers in the game-changing moment of the game, and the ban extended by Caf for four games, when all video evidence, which is everywhere on YouTube, clearly shows that Fahim was out of order? Why should the goal posts change when Caf is dealing with Pitroipa and different rules are applied when they are dealing with Zhokinyi and Archford Gutu, sent off in that match in Algeria and then banned for an extended period by Caf?

Tomorrow Dynamos begin another Champions League adventure but it's now expected that, along the way, they will meet some crazy referees, especially when playing in West and North Africa, who will make it virtually impossible for them to win.

They will complain, just like what Mutasa did when his dream was destroyed in Algiers, but noone will listen to them because the international television cameras would have left, the European journalists would have gone, Sepp Blatter and his men would have gone back to Switzerland and, crudely put, noone at Caf cares a damn about DeMbare.

What we were seeing in South Africa, the poor refereeing show, is what is the reality of our game on the continent and it has all come to this simply because Hayatou and his cronies have chosen to watch and enjoy the circus only to pretend that they care about Fair Play when the Nations Cup final starts.

You can't start from the top, when you are trying to repair a broken system, but you start from the bottom and Hayatou should make sure that the Champions League games and the Nations Cup qualifiers are handled expertly, by referees, if he is genuine.

Too bad Mamadou Gaye isn't on SuperSport because you know what he was going to say: "The referees are the images of Caf, corrupt, poor and unprofessional."

Spare A Thought For Zifa

Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube, told our sister newspaper, B-Metro, that his association banked US$650, after all expenses had been taken care of, from the international friendly against Botswana.

It's a scary situation and, at this rate, you can see that Zifa will continue sinking into the financial quagmire.

But they are trying to sort out this mess and Ndumiso Gumede said national team players' allowances and winning bonuses will be cut from now onwards and all the board members will no longer receive an allowance when they sit for board meetings. Step by step, it's those little steps that matter, and I was charmed to hear Botswana coach, Stanley Tshosane, saying something good about our football and its national leaders.

"We had the best time in Zimbabwe, they really took good care of us and we benefited from playing the Warriors. And I am happy to see things are improving in Zimbabwe," said Tshosane. Well, that's positive, isn't it?

Today is my birthday, 43 and counting, and in case you have forgotten, this is the 10th anniversary of the year when we finally ended 23-years of waiting to qualify for the Nations Cup finals, Zifa will turn 50 this year, and so will Dynamos, CAPS United will turn 40 and the domestic Premiership will turn 20.

What could I do, I always ask myself, without your prayers?

To God Be The Glory!

Come on United !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chicharitoooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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