As the day of reckoning draws closer, Egyptian giants Al Ahly have come up with a bizarre claim on the eve of their crunch African Champions League second leg tie at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday in Atteridgeville.
The team released a statement in which they sharply criticize the match’s designated referee – Bakary Gassama – considered as one of Africa’s respected whistle man, hinting that he should be substituted as he has been “biased” against them in previous matches.
In what can only be considered as both gamesmanship and intimidation of the referee, Al Ahly are instructing the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to closely monitor Gassama and how he handles the match.
To most people however, this appears to be either lack of confidence in their ability to win at a venue where they received the biggest hiding in the club’s history or they are looking for an advanced excuse should they end up losing the match.
“Al Ahly’s board of directors have been in official contact with CAF representatives in the last two weeks to express their worry and concerns regarding referee Bakary Gassama who will be in charge of the match against Mamelodi Sundowns,” reads the statement.
“Letters were sent by Al Ahly to CAF expressing their deep concerns regarding the unjustified insistence on appointing this referee to such game taking in consideration the hard feelings, the harsh attitude, and his previous history in the past Champions League games with Al Ahly and its fans in a way that disagrees with fair play.
“Al Ahly stresses that they are only demanding justice and equality in all their games and that picking such name for this game increases the doubts regarding this issue.
“Mr. Gassama was appointed last year to rule the same game between the two teams in the same stage and he showed up in a terrible form (Al Ahly lost 5-0) as he ignored a crystal clear goal for Al Ahly’s side that was scored by Junior Ajayi.
“Not only that, but he also allowed the South African team to waste time as much as they can without any warning or a decision that guarantees fair play standards beside his harsh way in treating Al Ahly players from the start of the game that made the players feel unsecured and lost their trust in his fairness on the pitch.
“This also dates back to the 2017 CAF Champions League Final when Al Ahly faced Wydad AC in Casablanca (November 4th) when Al Ahly lost 1-0 with so many vague mistakes from the referee who kept giving fouls to the Moroccan side and ignoring each and every foul for Al Ahly’s side.
“He also blew blew for two off-sides decisions for Al Ahly’s forward Walid Azaro which was also totally unfair. Those decisions were proven to be wrong in all the Analysis studios at the end of the game in addition to an unfair amount of stoppage time against the Moroccans.”
The statement concludes that considering all these unforgettable accidents with Mr. Gassama, they demand a very special observation for the coming game in Pretoria to guarantee the fair play standards, and fairness.