IT is supposed to be the biggest club match on the continent, but CAF has somehow decided to shroud the Champions League final between Wydad and Al Ahly in needless controversy that takes away from the prestige of the competition.

Having long lagged far behind its European counterpart, CAF simply refuses to elevate the Champions League to a higher level by constantly dragging it into amateurish depths from which it may never emerge.

The latest blunder by the continental body to take the final to Morocco, handing Wydad full home advantage, is another indication that CAF couldn’t be bothered about the professional standing of the Champions League and its credibility, while the UEFA Champions League continues to attract new fans in droves.

Wydad, CAF wants us to believe, are innocent bystanders in the controversy as their country’s football association won a fair bid to host this year’s final. But when CAF chose the Mohammed V Stadium, Wydad’s home ground, to stage the final that, oddly, will be played on Monday, May 30, it became clearer that the organisation thrives on perpetual incompetence.

And this is such a pity given we had such high hopes when, after three decades of totalitarian misrule, Issa Hayatou made way for a new president at the body’s Cairo headquarters in 2017.

His replacement, Ahmad Ahmad, didn’t finish his term amid claims of corruption and self-enrichment, which forced FIFA to take over and slap him with a ban.

Enter Patrice Motsepe, SA’s very own, supposedly unsoiled billionaire with reputable leadership and business skills. Motsepe has been in charge for just over a year and has to be commended for doing his part in getting the organisation back into shape. A broadcast deal that ended a two-year blackout of continental football was concluded, with new sponsors coming on board.

But that’s not sufficient to absolve Motsepe’s regime of the shenanigans which have befallen CAF of late. There cannot be justification for Wydad to have home advantage in a one-legged final, especially as the decision was made so late in the competition, when it had been clear that the Moroccan side would meet Ahly in the final (thanks to the results of the first leg of the semi-finals).

A more thoughtful organisation would have sought to avert any controversy and looked at neutral alternatives.

While there has been grandstanding from their side, Pitso Mosimane’s Ahly are correct to be outraged and cry ‘conspiracy’. But some of their complaints are so basic that they didn’t even require putting in writing as per their memorandum to CAF this week. 

“We would like CAF to guarantee that half of the stadium’s capacity will be allocated only for Al Ahly fans,” the Egyptian giants stated. 

This should be basic logic if you want even a semblance of fairness.

So, unless they choose the easier way out, which is to forfeit the final, Ahly have to go play in conditions that hugely favour the opposition. Just pitching for a match which you know has purposely been set up for your rival to thrive should be a win for Ahly, regardless of the outcome.

But the biggest losers in the May 30 match will be CAF. 

Not only have they fixtured the biggest club final on the continent on a random Monday, they have also created uneven playing conditions, using flimsy excuses such as insufficient bids to host the final.

More damningly, all talk around the match has been about the curious choice of the venue, not the football, which could have helped elevate the competition to a status it deserves and not further haemorrhage its battered credibility.

Meanwhile, the decision by CAF to award Morocco the hosting rights of the Champions League final  has left Al Ahly coach  Mosimane shocked.

CAF have confirmed  that Morocco will host the final, between Ahly and Wydad Casablanca. 

It will be the second time in succession that Morocco hosts the final after the Red Devils defeated Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 at Stade Mohammed V Stadium on July 17 last year.

Mosimane admitted that he was surprised by that decision, especially because Wydad is in the final.

“When the CAF Champions League group stages games were finished, rumours were saying SA is hosting. Hao, jikijiki (suddenly), after the semifinals games were decided, there was a loud silence in the country to host the final. Then after the first leg of the semifinals, suddenly Morocco is hosting,” Mosimane tweeted .

CAF announced it received bids from Senegal and Morocco, but after the withdrawal of Senegal, Morocco won the bid.

But that didn’t convince Mosimane as he suggested that there is corruption within the African football governing authority. Ahly had written to CAF president Patrice Motsepe last week suggesting that the final be played in a neutral venue.

It was believed that SA had submitted a bid to host the final, and SAFA spokesperson Mninawa Ntloko confirmed that they had those talks but were not successful as they want to also host the women’s championship later this year.

“Because we want to host the Women’s CAF Championship, so we cannot host both,” Ntloko explained to Sowetan yesterday.

“We didn’t take the conversation further. We got more going for that one [women’s championship]. Mamelodi Sundowns are there and we are the defending champions so we rather pursue that one because CAF didn’t want us to host both of them.” — Sowetan


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