FIFA's Sudan ban disrupts African club tournaments

Cars drive past a logo in front of FIFA
Cars drive past a logo in front of FIFA's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files
Modified 07 Jul 2017

By Mark Gleeson

(Reuters) - A FIFA ban on the Sudan Football Association (SFA) will wreak havoc on this weekend's final round of group matches in Africa's two club competitions with three key games now cancelled and clubs from the country kicked out.

The indefinite ban on the SFA comes over alleged government interference in its affairs and after the forcible eviction of the FIFA-recognised leadership from the association's headquarters in Khartoum.

FIFA had given Sudan until the end of June to sort out a compromise between two rival factions claiming control of the country's football and the failure to do so has resulted in suspension, world football's governing body said on Friday.

It means three Sudanese clubs, all in with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup, have been prevented from playing their final group games.

By virtue of the enforced forfeit, they are disqualified from the competitions, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed on Friday.

Khartoum's two most popular clubs, Al Hilal and Al Merreikh, were paired in the same group in the Champions League and both still had a chance to qualify on Friday. But with their matches against Etoile Sahel of Tunisia and Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique cancelled, their opponents now advance.

Al Hilal Obayed, the surprise package of the Confederation Cup and already in the last eight, were in Zambia for their final pool match against Zesco United on Sunday which would have determined top place in Group C. They also stand disqualified.

The ban also means CAF must scramble to find new referees for Saturday's Confederation Cup tie between Platinum Stars of South Africa and Swaziland's Mbabane Swallows as the Sudanese trio appointed may no longer officiate the game.

FIFA, who take a strong line on governmental interference in the running of member associations, want the SFA leadership of Mutasim Gaafar restored to office.

Last month, Sudan's Ministry of Justice had him removed, with police violently evicting members of his executive, and replaced by Abdel Rahman Elkatim.

"The suspension would be lifted once the decree of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice of 2 June is declared null or void and the Board of Directors of the SFA with its President, Dr Mutasim Gaafar, is reinstated," said a FIFA statement.

World football’s governing body sent a delegation to Khartoum mid-June to meet the country’s sports minister to seek a solution but the factions failed to agree the direction advised by FIFA officials, it added.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Published 07 Jul 2017
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