Namibia lose battle but win hearts

Harare – Little Namibia might have lost their high-profile fight against the Confederation of African Football, and will have to bear huge costs, but there was a moral triumph for the courageous Brave Warriors.

It did not end in fairytale success for little David over mighty Goliath as Namibia’s appeal to have Burkina Faso thrown out of the 2012 African Nations Cup finals was thrown out by the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS is the final court of appeal, in all disputes related to sport in the world, and once the Lausanne-based organisation passes its verdict, the case is closed.

Namibia argued that Burkina Faso violated the rules and regulations governing the eligibility of players to represent countries when they fielded Cameroon-born defender Hervé Zengue in two matches against the Brave Warriors in the 2012 AFCON qualifiers.

Zengue is married to a Burkinabe woman.

Zengue has since been dropped from the Burkina Faso squad for the 2012 AFCON finals that get underway on Saturday.

Twice the CAF leadership had thrown out Namibia’s appeal, the first time on a technicality.

But the courageous Namibia Football Association refused to be pushed into submission and took their protest to CAS.
On Tuesday CAS issued a statement on the case.

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rendered its decision in the arbitration between the Namibia Football Association and the Confefederation Africaine de Football (CAF),” read the CAS statement.

“The CAS has dismissed the appeal of the Namibia FA and has confirmed the decision of the CAF Appeal Board dated 24 November, 2011.

“This arbitration is the sequel of a dispute involving CAF, the Namibia FA, the FA of Burkina Faso and the player Hervé Zengue.
“Hervé Zengue was born in Cameroon and took a residency in Burkina Faso in 1994; he got a Burkinabé nationality certificate on 14 September, 2006.

“On 25 March, 2011, the player received a five-year passport from Burkina Faso.

“The Namibia FA filed its appeal at the CAS on 6 December 2011.

“The CAS conducted an expedited procedure and heard the parties at a hearing on 6 January 2012.

“The final award with reasons will be issued by the CAS in a few weeks.”

Predictably, CAF celebrated the decision passed by CAS and posted a statement on its official website which read:

“The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on January 10th, 2011 that the appeal filed by the Namibia Football Association on 8 December 2011 against the decision of the Appeal Board of the Confederation of African football dated 24 November 2011 is dismissed.

“The decision of the Appeal Board of the Confederation of African Football dated 24 November 2011 is confirmed.

“The Namibia Football Association shall bear the costs of arbitration, to be determined and served by the CAS Court Office.

“The Namibia Football Association shall contribute the sum of Swiss francs 5 000 (about US$5 275) towards the legal fees and other expenses incurred by the Confederation of African Football in connection with these arbitration proceedings.
“All other or further claims are dismissed.”

But while Namibia lost, the mere fact that they took on an autocratic organisation like CAF, which continues to sideline the interests of Southern African nations in favour of North and West Africa, is being cheered in many circles.

Milton Nyamadzawo, a Zimbabwean based in Johannesburg who analyses African football for The Herald newspaper in Harare, said there was a moral victory for Namibia and many small nations despite the loss in the Swiss courts of appeal.

“Definitely, the Namibians have shown the way and while they might have lost they have given others courage and I can bet my last dollar that no small nation will ever be cowed into a corner by the CAF leaders from now on,” said Nyamadzawo.

“The Namibians have blazed a trail and it has come at a cost but they have shown the administrative weaknesses that have paralysed African football and others will draw a lot of inspiration from their courageous yet ultimately futile battle.

“There are too many grey areas in African football and Issa Hayatou hasn’t helped the situation either and there will always be a feeling in Southern Africa that we will forever get a raw deal as long as Hayatou is in power.”

George Deda, the Managing Editor of Futbol News, a monthly football magazine published in Harare, said while Namibia might have lost the battle, they had dealt CAF a psychological blow.

“When you have a big organisation like CAF having to wait until just two weeks before the start of the Nations Cup to confirm if one of the countries will be participating then you know you have fought a gallant war,” said Deda.

“It’s just a start and it’s always difficult but others have shown the way and we will see more of these cases now. Money is not everything.”

Namibia FA president John Muinjo was a disappointed man.

“We must stop playing football if we can’t abide by its rules,” Muinjo told reporters, adding they now have to find ways of settling the costs.

“This is an eventuality that we did not budget for but … as a law-abiding nation, we will have to pay.”

January 2012
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