CAF comms fumble causes confusion with late switch of AFCON final referee

By Osasu Obayiuwana in Cairo, Egypt

July 19 – The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has partially explained why it made a sudden change to the referee that will take charge of Friday’s final of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. 

The organisation had announced, through its social media platforms, that South African Referee Victor Gomes was to take charge of the final between Algeria’s Les Verts (The Greens) and Senegal’s Lions of Teranga.

But CAF appeared to make a sudden volte-face and appointed Cameroonian Alioum Alioum (pictured).

When CAF President Ahmad was asked, at Thursday’s press conference, why a sudden change was made to the referee for the final, the Malagasy did not give an understandable answer.

However, Souleyman Waberi, chairman of CAF’s Referees’ Commission, told Insideworldfootball that Gomes was never appointed in the first place and that the announcement on CAF’s social media handles was never authorised by them.

“The Referees Commission did not make any appointment of the referee for today’s final until after the 3rd place match, between Nigeria and Tunisia.

“I was very shocked, like anyone else, to see the announcement of Victor Gomes on CAF’s social media handles,” Waberi said.

“The moment I saw it, I went to see Anthony Baffoe (CAF’s Deputy General Secretary – Football and Development) and asked him who gave the communications department the right to make such an announcement? He was also surprised about it. We then had to order that those announcements be taken off all CAF social media,” he continued.

“This type of mistake should never happen. But the announcement of Gomes never came from the Referees Commission. We must improve our communication as an organisation. What happened is not acceptable and people have the right to criticise us for this.”

When InsideWorldFootball asked CAF’s Communications Department who ordered the publication of the Gomes appointment, two officials made it clear that their department had nothing to do with the error.

“The social media platforms of CAF are not under the authority of the communications department. They are managed by our marketing department,” both people said.

Abdel Bah, CAF’s head of marketing, told InsideWorldFootball that a third party organisation, responsible for CAF’s digital communication, during the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, are responsible for the mistake.

“We are using an external company for our social media offerings during this tournament. Unfortunately, those responsible got news, from outside CAF, that Victor Gomes was the referee.

“They thought that the information officially came from CAF, which they failed to crosscheck. As soon as the Referees’ Commission heard about this, they informed us that the information was not correct and it was taken down,” Bah said.

A history of referee changes

This is not the first time that there has been controversy over the appointment of referees at the ongoing Cup of Nations.

CAF is yet to explain how Gehad Grisha, the Egyptian referee, was included on the Cup of Nations rota, even though he was serving a six-month suspension for “poor performance”, according to the body.

Grisha was in charge of proceedings for the 3rd place match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles, which Nigeria won 1-0.

He was originally suspended by CAF after his handling of the first leg of the controversial Champions League final between Morocco’s Wydad Athletic Club (WAC) and Esperance of Tunisia.

The Egyptian referee denied, correctly – after a VAR review of both incidents – a penalty and goal to WAC in the course of the Casablanca match. Grisha’s suspension caused a lot of controversy within the African football community, as it was generally judged to be an unfair suspension.

But the method of reversal of Grisha’s suspension, not the reversal in itself, is as controversial as the unfair sanctions that were imposed on the Egyptian.

CAF, right up to the end of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, has not issued a statement about why the suspension of Grisha was revoked.

It was the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) that strangely announced the revocation, which, in the ordinary course of events, is a serious violation of protocol, as they are a member association of CAF that should wait for CAF’s clear pronouncements on such matters.

Officials of CAF, approached by Insideworldfootball, for an explanation of the situation, declined to comment.

A sudden change of referee also took place in this year’s Champions League game between DR Congo club TP Mazembe and Esperance, when Ethiopian Referee Bamelak Tessema was suddenly substituted and replaced by Zambian Referee Janny Sikazwe, without any explanation.

Souleyman Waberi of Djibouti is the chairman of CAF’s Referees Commission, while Eddy Maillet , Seychelles, is in charge of the day-to-day management of referees within the organisation.

Contact the writer of this story, Osasu Obayiuwana, at moc.l1566775080labto1566775080ofdlr1566775080owedi1566775080sni@o1566775080fni1566775080