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Governing Bodies

Fury, sadness in Indonesia after FIFA pulls Under-20 World Cup

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Indonesian players, fans and pundits reacted with anger and sadness on Thursday after Fifa stripped the host nation of the right to stage the Under-20 World Cup weeks before its kick off, following protests against Israel’s participation.

The humiliating incident came after two influential governors advocated banning Israel from the football competition.

Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, and support for the Palestinian cause in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation runs high, fuelling local opposition to hosting the Israeli team.

Fifa’s decision to find a new host – thereby striking out Indonesia’s automatic qualifying spot – puts the country’s most popular sport back in the doldrums and facing another bout of isolation as it recovers from a 2022 stadium stampede that killed at least 125 people.

Some of the nation’s football prodigies took to social media with fury after losing the chance to play at what Fifa bills as the “tournament of tomorrow’s superstars”.

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“Energy, time, sweat and even blood we have put in but, in a moment, failed because of political reasons. Here’s our big dream that you’ve destroyed,” wrote 19-year-old striker Rabbani Tasnim.

A video online showed players with heads bowed and their coach in tears after receiving the news late on Wednesday that Fifa would seek a new host.

“We, the players, are now affected, not just us but all footballers,” said 18-year-old striker Hokky Caraka.

Head coach Shin Tae Yong said he was “heartbroken and tired” after preparing the team for more than three years for the showpiece.

On Thursday morning, flower boards for the players popped up outside the Football Association’s (PSSI) headquarters in Jakarta, including one that read “Do not give up on your dream”.

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Indonesians also inundated the Instagram page of Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo with negative comments after he opposed Israel’s participation.

Bali governor Wayan Koster had also joined the anti-Israel chorus and around a hundred conservative Muslim protesters held an anti-Israel rally in Jakarta in March.

Mr Koster on Thursday cited the occupation of Palestinian lands and “threat and security” concerns for rejecting Israel’s participation, comparing his call for a ban to Russia’s exile from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Democratic Party of Struggle, the powerful nationalist ruling party of President Joko Widodo and Mr Koster, in a statement expressed regret about the decision but said it had sought for Israel to play its games in “the nearest neighbouring country”.

But there was popular support for the tournament – scheduled to be held from May 20 to June 11 – to go ahead as planned with many viewing it as a source of national pride.

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Jakarta had pledged to guarantee Israel’s participation despite its pro-Palestinian stance, but opposing voices became too loud for Fifa.

“This is a very painful incident for the Indonesian people. Those who made the noise and made us fail… must be held accountable,” said Akmal Marhali, an expert at football watchdog Save Our Soccer.

Indonesian officials said losing the tournament could cost the country “trillions of rupiah”.

Fifa also threatened further sanctions for the protests and could exclude Indonesia from 2026 World Cup qualifiers that begin in October.

However, for Indonesia’s fervent fans, it was the loss of their first-ever major football tournament that hurt the most.

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“I am very disappointed because it has been my dream to watch Indonesia hosting a global football event,” said 40-year-old supporter Jarnawi.

“We are talking about youths who want to play soccer. They do not have any more interests. Why is this issue blindly mixed with political games?,” said pundit Justinus Lhaksana.

Fifa said the decision was taken following a meeting between its president Gianni Infantino and PSSI chairman Erick Thohir.

“A new host will be announced as soon as possible… Potential sanctions against the PSSI may also be decided at a later stage,” a statement read.

President Widodo said he was “disappointed and sad” over the call, but added that it must be respected.

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“Don’t waste your energy blaming one another. As a big nation, we have to look towards what’s in front, not behind,” he said, adding he had instructed Thohir to work on avoiding Fifa sanctions.


AFP/Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Governing Bodies

CAF set to break even after ‘toxic’ past

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President Patrice Motsepe (left) has been vital to turning around the Confederation of African Football's financial fortunes, says secretary general Veron Mosengo-Omba (right)

The Confederation of African Football will be debt free next year as a result of improved governance since Patrice Motsepe became president of a “toxic” body in 2021, says its secretary general Veron Mosengo-Omba.

Installed as deputy just days after the South African billionaire was appointed president, Mosengo-Omba says Caf’s level of debt when the pair took over was about $40m (£31m).

He says this figure has more than halved since, with the tally set to drop even further when Caf’s financial accounts are presented later this year.

“I think we will present a [deficit] figure to the Caf congress of less than $12m (£9.3m),” Mosengo-Omba told BBC Sport Africa.

“For the next fiscal year, [the debt] will be zero.”

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The Caf financial year runs from the start of July to the end of June, with accounts traditionally presented to congress in October, meaning the organisation could be debt-free in just under 12 months’ time.

Mosengo-Omba, who hails from DR Congo but who also holds Swiss nationality, says that credit for the turnaround must go to his 62-year-old boss.

“Motsepe and his executive coming in was, for me, a gift for African football,” said the lawyer, who worked as Fifa’s chief member associations officer before joining Cairo-based Caf.

“In 2021, Caf was a toxic company – nobody trusted Caf. When Motsepe came, he put the principle of good governance and integrity in all levels of the organisation.

“This brings confidence to our partners.”

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One of Africa’s richest men, with a fortune estimated at $3.1bn, external (£2.4b) by Forbes, Motsepe replaced the previous administration led by Madagascar’s Ahmad.

Elected president in 2017 when he dethroned long-standing Caf president Issa Hayatou, Ahmad’s tenure was blighted by scandal, with the Malagasy – who denies wrongdoing – banned for two years by Fifa for breaking its ethics codes, including ‘misappropriation of funds’.

The Hayatou administration maintains that it left over $100m (£77.4m) in reserves when it departed, with the funds declining vastly under Ahmad, whose regime increased salaries, cut Caf’s biggest-ever broadcast deal before then suffering some Covid-enforced losses.

Under Motsepe meanwhile, the number of sponsors of Caf’s flagship Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) competition has risen from 10 for the 2021 finals in Cameroon to 17 for the 2023 edition, which was played in January this year.

It also gained a global television audience of 1.1 billion, with double that tally – 2.2 billion – accessing the tournament’s digital content.

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“In Cameroon we generated about $4-5 million (£3-4m) profit. In Ivory Coast the profit was more than $75 million (£58m). This shows we are [going] in a good direction and for Morocco, the next edition, I think [the profit] will be increased by 50%,” said Mosengo-Omba.

Most of this increase is coming from sponsors and television rights, with the secretary general also declaring himself “very happy” that Caf generated $14m (£10.8m) after taking ticketing and hospitality in-house for the first time.

Despite recent comments by Afcon-winning Ivory Coast coach Emerse Fae, Mosengo-Omba dispelled suggestions that the tournament could become a four-yearly affair by reiterating the fact that the governing body’s greatest income comes every two years from the finals, which next kick off in December 2025.

“The periodicity of Afcon is not on the table,” he said. “We need the money from Afcon every two years to run football in Africa.”

Mosengo-Omba also sought to strongly defend Caf’s approach to dealing with allegations of corruption against some of its senior administrators, insisting it is “not protecting crooks”.

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Malian federation president Mamatou Toure is currently on trial for embezzling public funds in the West African country, while counterpart Wadie Jary is facing corruption charges in Tunisia.

Both men, who have denied the charges after their detentions last year, remain both in prison and members of Caf’s executive committee.

Pressed on why neither has been suspended, Mosengo-Omba said the organisation could only take action once court cases are settled in their respective countries.

“We suspend [people] provisionally if we are investigating the case ourselves,” he added.

“We respect the sovereignty of each country. When we have the verdict of the court, we’ll take a decision. Nobody is above the law in Caf – no-one.”

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In May, Toure – a member of the Fifa council – reportedly dialled into a Fifa meeting from his prison cell in the Malian capital Bamako.

“If Messrs Toure and Jary committed crime according to the respective regulations of each country, take them to court,” the Swiss-Congolese said.

“How can Caf intervene in the situation?”

-BBC

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Governing Bodies

Tinubu backs Amaju’s FIFA Council re-election bid

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, Amaju Pinnick has secured the backing of Nigeria’s President,  Bola Tinubu in his bid to get another term in office as one of Africa’s representatives in FIFA Council.

The 37-member FIFA  Council is the main decision making body of the organisation in the intervals of FIFA Congress. 

Pinnick is the third Nigerian to ever sit in the FIFA Council after Oyo Orok Oyo (1980-1988) and Dr. Amos Adamu (2006-2010).

Pinnick was elected into the council on 12 March 2021. He is bidding for re-election in 2025 when the current term lapses.

According to a media release from the State House and signed by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity,

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President Bola Tinubu expresses strong support for Nigeria’s bid for re-election into the FIFA Council

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Governing Bodies

Save Our Soccer, African Sports Journalists plead with Motsepe

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

An SOS has been sent by the International Sports Press – Africa (AIPS -Africa) to the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Dr. Patrice Motsepe to save the soul of African soccer.

 The sports writers’ body has written an open letter to Motsepe on the need to do more to save African football.

The letter, written Monday in Dakar, is premised on the recurring scheduling problems that “have made CAF a victim of collateral damage from the “war” between UEFA and FIFA.”

Continuing in the letter signed by AIPS-Africa President, Abdoulaye Thiam, the sports writers’ body noted that UEFA contributed to overloading of the international calendar with the creation of the Nations League, which is played on FIFA dates

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Owing to the congested international calendar, football competitions in Africa have been major victims.

AIPS wrote: …”the stuttering and uncertainties surrounding the programming of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) leave many wondering about the future of our continent’s most prestigious competition, which is struggling to find a place in the international calendar.

“Added to this, the external influences and the overload of the international calendar, modelled on the European interests, increases the scepticism surrounding the survival of CAF’s most lucrative and economically viable tournament.

“As a result, therefore, it is rare, if not impossible, for an African team to find a European team to spar with, except when they share the same group in a World Cup draw every four years.     

“As for FIFA, in addition to the Arab World Cup, it has also created the Club World Cup. Worse still, it decided to stage the latter competition from June 15 to July 13, 2025, a period initially chosen by Morocco to host the AFCON 2025. In fact, Cairo’s dependence on Zurich enabled FIFA’s latest competition to happily shake up the 67-year-old African Cup of Nations.”

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Also affected by the global football calendar are the scheduling of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and African Women’s Champions League.

The journalists recalled that the changing of AFCON tournaments from the even-ending years to the odd  was to avert situations of clashing with World Cup years and to avert exhaustion on players.

The situation is such that scheduling of tournaments in Africa is now determined by compromise reached with UEFA and FIFA.

AIPS averred that “it is important to deconstruct the image of Africa as a prominent stakeholder in the global game with huge voice of 54 member associations and votes being presented as an electoral cattle-tank, to be adequately given their fair share during debates and dialogues with FIFA, by offering constructive solutions with a view to accelerating a reform of the international calendar.

“It is therefore expected from CAF leaders to ensure respect for African Football which is full of great administrators and players alike…Mr. President (Motsepe), you claim to be a disciple of Nelson Mandela and a well respectable man. A man of principles. So do kindly refuse and remain our inspiration than anything else.”  

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