Africa’s soccer governing body, the Confederation of Afrian Football (CAF) has ordered a replay of the second leg tie of the African Champions League final following the incident that stalemated the original fixture .
The final was awarded to Tunisian side, Esperance after their Moroccan opponents Wydad Casablanca abandoned the pitch over a disputed decision by the Centre referee.
Rising from its meeting in Paris on the sidelines of the FIFA congress, the CAF Executive Committee decided on Wednesday to re-stage the final encounter at a neutral venue.
However, tongues are already wagging with insinuations of bias, even as football commentators warned that the decision could spark a continental row through legal challenge by the Tunisian club.
Trouble started when Wydad Casablanca refused to continue play after the referee disallowed their 59th minute goal in the return leg final match that took place in Tunis last Friday.
With the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system not working, the match was awarded to home side Esperance, after more than about two hours delay by the Moroccan visitors.
Relying on existing CAF rules, the referee then decided to hand over the trophy and winner’s medals to the Tunisian champions.
The first leg encounter played on May 25 in Casablanca ended in a one-all draw and Esperance were 1-0 up in the return leg a week later when Wydad thought they had equalised.
When the match referee signaled for an offside, the decision sparked off protests which lasted for almost 90 minutes before the game was eventually called off in scenes that bordered on the farcical.
Contestatiom over the referee’s decision remained unresolved, even when CAF President Ahmad Ahmad came down from the VIP stand to the side line in a bid to resolve the crisis.
Though no official announcement, or explanation was immediately given for the Executive Committee’s decision, some CAF members and officials of both clubs confirmed the development.
However, club officials indicated on Wednesday that Esperance are expected to appeal against the ruling.
Aldo, the Moroccan Football Federation, whose president Fouzi Lekjaa is considered a powerful voice within CAF executive, said the players were not informed before the match that the VAR technology was faulty.
Rules set by the game’s lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), state otherwise however.
The rules state that a match cannot be invalidated because of VAR technology malfunctioning or if there is a wrong decision involving VAR.
For now, any replay would have to wait until after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals to be hosted by Egypt from Friday, June 21 to Sunday, July 19, 2019.