Spineless CAF reinstate cheating Equatorial GuineaThomas Kwenaite
The upcoming African Women Cup of Nations tournament was on Wednesday thrown into disarray by the spineless Confederation of African Football (CAF) when they reinstated Equatorial Guinea after initially throwing them out of the competition for cheating.
Equatorial Guinea were found guilty of fielding an illegible player when they eliminated Kenya 3-2 on aggregate during qualifiers. But the Harambee Starlets lodged a complaint about Anette Jacky Messomo claiming she was a Cameroonian national.
Kenya’s protest was upheld and Equatorial Guinea were duly expelled. In addition, Equatorial Guinea were fined US$10 000 when CAF confirmed that the player in question was indeed a Cameroonian national and had also played for several European clubs.
Back in 2014, there was a tale that was stranger than fiction around the Equatorial Guineans, with Ghana also accusing them of including men in their team. The then Black Queens’ team captain Florence Okoe said no one can make her yield in her belief that Equatorial Guinean star striker Salimata Simpore was “a boy playing a girl’s game.”
“It is not as if we are throwing sour grapes, just because we have lost. Rather, this is the fact and it is up to the organisers (CAF) to do something about this. It is not good for African women football,” added Okoe.
Her colleague, Diana Ankomah, echoed the statement, saying that “losing to an unequal opposition like in this case of Equatorial Guinea is painful. You only need to have physical contact with them to know this, and we can tell from what happened most times during the match.”
Equatorial Guinea’s raging gender controversy at that time made international headlines as the story was carried and re-told across the world by some of the leading journals.
A similar incident occurred at the previous AWC tournament held in Equatorial Guinea in 2008, when a request was fielded by Cameroon to investigate three players from the hosting team who were suspected to be men.
Cameroon’s protest was joined by the Vice President of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amanze Uchegbulam, who pleaded that the organisers take action to ensure a levelling of the playing field.
“We know that the organizers may not take action but we feel strongly about this. There are two players in the Equatorial Guinea team whose gender is doubtful and CAF will do this competition a lot of good if their gender can be cleared. “It is a competition where all the teams should have level playing field, including on gender matter,” said Uchegbulam.
The ineligible players featured for the oil-rich African country during qualifying for the 2016 Olympics, while two other players provided “forged and falsified” documents to claim nationality, FIFA said in a statement.
Kenya were initially drawn in Group B of the 2018 tournament with South Africa, Zambia and defending champions Nigeria. The Kenyans were supposed to open the tournament with a match against Zambia in the Gold Coast on November 18.
But the shocking ruling by CAF now means that Kenya, who have reportedly already arrived in Ghana, will have to pack their bags and return home while the oil rich Equatorial Guineans now prepare to face the Shepolopolo of Zambia.
There are now fears that should Kenya appeal the decision, which they would be within their democratic right to do, the tournament could either be delayed or postponed until the embarrassing and annoying issue is resolved.
What has shocked many observers is that back in 2016, Equatorial Guinea were found guilty of fielding 10 inelligible players from diverse countries like Spain, Cameroon, Nigeria and even Brazil after falsifying and forging their identity documents.
Jade Boho Sayo, Genoveva Anonman Nse and Cristina Martins Vania were among players that had illegally obtained falsified documents to play for the oil rich country but for their troubles, were banned by FIFA and would not allowed to take part in the 2020 Olympic Games.