CAF tells Africa stadia to pull up socks



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African stadiums closed due to missing infrastructure Image: afrik.com

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) – under its new President Patrice Motsepe – has banned 20 of its 54 member-countries from using their stadia to stage international fixtures because they don’t meet “minimum requirements”.

‘AP’ stated that the above move would potentially throw next month’s World Cup qualifiers into disarray.

Egypt-headquartered the Confederation of African Football or CAF is the administrative and controlling body for African association football. CAF represents the national football associations of Africa, runs continental, national and club competitions, and controls the prize money, regulations and media rights to those competitions.

‘AP’ further stated that eight of the countries whose stadium accreditations were revoked by the CAF are involved in those qualifiers, which are scheduled to start from June 5th. They include Senegal, the top-ranked team in Africa, and Mali.

Senegal’s 60,000-seat Stade Léopold Senghor in Dakar is closed for refurbishment and a stadium in the City of Thies that the national team used for recent games has not been approved. Mali’s (country in West Africa) 50,000-seat Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako also hasn’t been accredited, leaving both countries with no approved venues.

Countries without any accredited stadiums were handed down a deadline of May 7th by the CAF to organize neutral venues for what were meant to be their home games. That forced teams and officials into extra cross-border travel at a time when the coronavirus storm has still not blown over.

The complications could force CAF to delay the qualifiers. The other teams in World Cup qualifying to have their stadiums banned are Burkina Faso, Niger, Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, and Namibia.

Sierra Leone has also been affected, though it is no longer involved in World Cup qualifying. It was due to host Benin in a delayed African Cup of Nations qualifier next month to decide the final team for that tournament. Their decisive qualifier in March was canceled because of a dispute over COVID-19 tests and rescheduled for the June international window. That game now can’t happen in Sierra Leone.

Some of the reasons given by CAF for the stripping of stadium accreditations included substandard fields, “poor and inadequate” dugout areas for team officials and the lack of fixed seating for fans.

Motsepe, a South African mining billionaire who owns Pretoria-based club Mamelodi Sundowns, was elected unopposed as the new head of African soccer in March with the support of FIFA President Gianni Infantino. One of his promises was to improve the continent’s soccer infrastructure.

Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club is a South African professional football club based in Mamelodi, Pretoria in the Gauteng province that plays in the Premier Soccer League, the first tier of South African football league system.

As early as February 2020, FIFA President Gianni Infantino reaffirmed his promise to build at least one stadium in every football association in Africa that meets the standards of the world association. To finance this, FIFA is working with the CAF. A group of partners and a fund worth around 833 million euros are to be put together to make “solid and sustainable” infrastructure investments in the continent.

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