African football’s indecisive leaders must accept the blame for Olembe tragedy | Africa Cup of Nations 2022

Even in his first press convention after Monday’s catastrophe at the Stade Olembé through which eight followers died, Patrice Motsepe, the president of the Confederation of African Soccer, was seeking to shift the blame. He convened a fee to analyze the causes – it was anticipated to report on Friday, however is but to take action – however the avoidance of company duty had begun already.

There was the gate that was “inexplicably” shut. And that, virtually definitely, was the direct trigger of the buildup of individuals and the surge in direction of the open gate that knocked down a brief barrier and led to individuals being trampled on. Whoever didn’t open that shut gate will take the blame.

Motsepe additionally spoke of followers with out tickets. No person appears to doubt that’s true, however neither is it provable – and the stadium was not full to capability (though it was in all probability full past the supposed 80% cap imposed as a result of of Covid); the downside was not the quantity of followers however their distribution. A photograph taken well before kick-off exhibits clearly the downside of a handful of police making an attempt to verify a rising crowd of 1000’s 20 yards or so in entrance of the fence the place the tragedy occurred.

However there are causes and there are causes. “Safety,” Motsepe stated, “is the duty of the native organising committee and it isn’t Caf’s duty. Caf’s duty is to advise. Caf has no authorized obligation and has no duty and shouldn’t be blamed. However we’re companions and it’s not time to level fingers.”


But he had already accomplished so twice.

It’s straightforward – and never unfaithful – to say the trigger is a primary one of crowd management. There was speak that yet one more perimeter fence had been deliberate however not constructed, and of the want for safety checks to be carried out extra shortly (in Douala on Saturday, they had been extra complicated and slower), and maybe there may be advantage in each factors, however the basic subject was that too many individuals turned up at the similar place at the similar time.

There could have been troopers in that space, however wanting menacing with an AK47 is of little use – and neither would the rooftop snipers who immediately appeared on Saturdayyesterday have been – when what was wanted was to divert massive numbers of individuals away from the south entrance to the east and north.

Clearly, the native organisers must bear duty for that. However then, what number of main soccer matches are held in Cameroon? How typically do their authorities must cope with crowds of 60,000? There have been 25,000 at Cameroon’s final dwelling World Cup qualifier, and 10,000 at the one earlier than that – and each of these had been performed not in Yaoundé however in Douala. It’s Caf that hosts tournaments each two years and Caf that has the expertise; it can not sit above the carnage and casually brush off duty.


There have been solutions from insiders that Motsepe has been appalled by the disorganisation and lack of management he has discovered at Caf. It has by no means been the most effectively run governing physique, mired in infighting and corruption, however issues clearly acquired worse since Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign got here to an finish with defeat to Ahmad Ahmad in a presidential election in 2017.

Ahmad was pressured to resign after corruption costs final 12 months and is serving a Fifa-imposed two-year ban from soccer, with Motsepe, a South African mining tycoon, elected unopposed as his alternative. He was the candidate favoured by the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, and the world governing physique’s affect inside Caf is rising.

Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African soccer, has seemed to shift the blame for the tragedy. {Photograph}: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Pictures

That will, in time, result in World Cup-style efficiencies, nevertheless it must even be a severe concern. Caf ought to exist to run and promote African soccer, not as a voting bloc to assist Infantino and his schemes. Infantino was at the Council of Europe this previous week, explaining the “want to search out methods to incorporate the entire world to offer hope to Africans in order that they don’t have to cross the Mediterranean with a purpose to discover possibly a greater life however, extra in all probability, dying in the sea”.


A worthy purpose, little doubt, however he was clearly speaking in the context of staging the World Cup each two years, a plan that will have the assist of Caf, or no less than the presidents of varied vocal federations, however doesn’t appear common in any respect amongst anyone else in African soccer: delegates, coaches, gamers, journalists or followers.

It’s straightforward to see why Infantino helps a biennial World Cup: he thinks it will elevate extra revenues for Fifa (though precisely how a lot is disputed) and can be a strike in opposition to Uefa of their wrangle for political management over the sport. However simply as it will diminish the Euros, so it will diminish the Cup of Nations – and it’s very onerous to see how that advantages African soccer as an entire.

There 24 groups taking part in in a serious match of first rate customary each two years; who advantages if that’s overshadowed by a worldwide match that, following the mannequin for the expanded 2026 World Cup would characteristic 9 African sides each two years? Actually not groups reminiscent of the Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea and Comoros, who’ve lit up this Cup of Nations and proven how the African center is rising even when the conventional giants have plateaued.

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However the reality is that the Cup of Nations is successful regardless of Caf and never as a result of of it. It’s hardly a brand new phenomenon, however at each flip the match is mismanaged, from the poor lodging endured by the Gambia and different groups to the dithering and finally aborted try to play the ultimate minutes of Mali in opposition to Tunisia after the referee blew early for full time, to the abject media services in Douala, to the appalling proven fact that two and a half years after the match was scheduled to kick off, the Stade Olembé remains to be unfinished – and, until more cash is discovered to pay contractors, will stay so.

There’s a tradition of indecisiveness and inaction and that creates an setting through which tragedies reminiscent of Monday’s can happen. Caf could, as Motsepe claimed, bear no obligation, nevertheless it can not merely blame any individual else, transfer on and neglect what has occurred.

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