Rabat – Fouzi Lekjaa, the president of Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF), has pointed fingers at the “deep-seated” corruption and “other dysfunction” at the heart of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Lekjaa’s comments came during an FRMF meeting on September 16 in Skhirat, a coastal town between Rabat and Casablanca. In his speech at the meeting, the FRMF president vented his frustration at CAF for the “unfair” and “biased” treatment Moroccan clubs have faced while participating in African tournaments.
Amid the still unsettled Wydad-ES Tunis scandal, the Moroccan official’s statements reflect the feeling, widely reported in news outlets and expressed among some CAF officials in the past months, that Moroccan club Wydad was victim of a deliberate VAR-rigging by its Tunisian opponent.
The VAR system at the Rades stadium in Tunis was defective on match day during the second leg between Morocco’s Wydad and Tunisia’s Esperance. The game was later stopped halfway through when Wydad players requested that the referee use VAR to confirm an equalizing goal. Only after the match did Wydad learn that the stadium’s VAR system had broken down shortly before the game.
Without giving names, Lekjaa reiterated his earlier comments at the latest CAF executive meeting on reforms, saying that a “rich man” who has made his fortune in the energy sector is currently pulling the CAF strings from behind the curtains.
This, he contended, is reason enough to argue that almost all of CAF’s most critical decisions in the past years have been made in a way that favors the unnamed energy mogul’s agenda. “Some teams have been benefitting” from CAF’s currently rotten management system, he claimed.
Other than the “biased” ruling which he says helped deny Wydad its “legitimate right” to be the winner over ES Tunis, Lekjaa spoke of the age problem in junior African football competitions for national teams. He complained about many countries getting way with age falsification, when the ages of much older players are reduced to make them eligible for their countries’ U17 or U23 teams.
A recent age falsification occurred at the latest U17 CAN in Morocco’s group, where both Guinea and Cameroon were suspected of using ineligible players.
Cameroon succeeded in brushing off the accusations, showing birth certificates and other documents that helped settle the debate. But the proof against Guinea—including former passports of the two players whose age was disputed—was damming. Guinea’s U17 squad was later revealed to have indeed used two players in their twenties.
But only after the tournament, whose final Guinea played and lost against Cameroon, was the West African country punished.
Lekjaa also said that Morocco has provided enough proof that the U23 teams of DR Congo and Mali, both of which recently defeated and eliminated Morocco’s U23 squad from continental tournaments, used “false ages” for some of their players. But, Lekjaa blustered, CAF never punished them.
The Moroccan’s indignation comes as CAF undergoes reformist winds at FIFA’s request. Recently, FIFA appointed its secretary general, the Senegalese Fatma Samoura, as a special supervisor for CAF. The Senegalese comes with a special mandate to cleanse the African footballing body of the pile of scandals its senior officials, including its president, have been associated with in the past months.
Lekjaa, who was recently appointed to be part of the special committee that will be working with Samoura to root out CAF’s deep-seated corruption, finally called for “profound reforms” of CAF management.
He suggested that, despite a large pool of talented players, corruption and favoritism in the highest echelons of African football are some essential reasons why the continent is still battling to reach the level of other confederations.