Al Ahly and Espérance not new to underhand football tactics
Township Rollers play in one of the most important fixtures in their footballing history this Saturday in Uganda.
Voice Sports Editor Kabelo Dipholo discusses the club’s slim chances, and shares his fears about the rot that has characterized African football in recent times. Is his a legitimate concern, or just a patriot’s paranoia?
Rollers’ fairy tale journey in the the Total CAF Champions League group stage could come to a premature end as early as this Friday.
The Gaborone giants are in Uganda where they need a victory against Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA), to keep alive their slim chances of progressing beyond the group stages.
The Blues are currently third in the group, equal on three points with their weekend opponents.
Esperance of Tunisia have already qualified with 10 points while Al Ahly are on the second spot with seven points, a position they’d be looking to solidify when they take on Esperence at the Stade Olympique de Rades on Friday night; 18 hours before Rollers’match.
While a victory for Nikola Kavazoviz’s charges could give them a glimmer of hope, they still need Esperance to defeat the Egyptians and hope to collect maximum points against the Tunisians on the 28th of August in Gaborone.
Even that scenario will not guarantee qualification as Al Ahly will still have to lose their last match against KCCA.
The Group A battle may however never get that far, as Esperance or Al Ahly could decide Rollers’ fate this Friday even before kicking the ball.
Match fixing in North Africa is an intriguing phenomenon, and both clubs have been linked to allegations of underhand football tactics in the past.
Egyptian football was rocked by one of the most bizarre football scoreline in February this year when a team needing 18 goals to reach the playoffs won 21-0.
Senbast defeated Fanta Workers 21-0 to get the 18 needed goals to leap frog their rivals Mahalet El-Marhoum for a place in the playoffs.
Prior to this flattering scoreline Al Ahly held the record win in Egyptian football after their 13-0 hammering of El Ghouna in a 2015 Egyptian Cup fixture.
The win was however without controversy as the newly relegated side had fielded their U-17 team, in protest against the Egyptian Football Association (EFA)’s decision to turn down their appeal regarding a player they regarded as a defaulter.
Back in 2008 Ahly were in the news once again when they accused Tunisia’s Etiole Sahel of match fixing after losing 3-1 in the Champions League Final.
While they were the victims in this match, which saw them being denied two clear penalties in a match officiated by Moroccan referee Abderrahim El-Arjoune, it is testament that match fixing in CAF competitions is always a possibility, particularly when it involves North African teams.
In their report to CAF Ahly officials claimed they had found a photo where El-Arjoune was spotted meeting with Etoile Vice President Jalel Krifa in Paris.
The referee however went on to officiate the the Africa Cup of Nations.
Esperance were also involved in a match fixing allegations following their 3-2 win over Etoile Sahel in February this year.
The match left 19 police officers hospitalized after fans rioted in protest of a dubious penalty and a flurry of red cards that followed.
The penalty award came late in the second half with Etoile leading 2-1. The referee further issued three red cards in the final 10 minutes of the highly charged match.
Match fixing is rampant in Tunisian football, something which has turned stadia into places of violence.
In 2013 The Tunisian Football Association suspended players Marouane Troudi (EGS Gafsa) and Mahmoud Dridi(AS Kasserine) and official Amir Jaziri from all football related activities for match fixing.
The Friday meet between the two African heavyweights could once again turn out to be a match of convenience as Rollers’ fate could have long been decided in the boardroom.