Fifa’s concern over Africa’s ineligible players

Africa’s problem with ineligible players will be addressed by Fifa after the world body opened nine cases during the continent’s World Cup qualifiers and has punished seven countries so far by forcing them to forfeit games. An eighth country is under investigation.

Fifa director of competitions Mustapha Fahmy, an Egyptian and former secretary general of Africa’s football body, said yesterday “possible solutions” will be discussed with member associations after Africa’s qualifying competition for Brazil was littered with cases.

“Fifa will aim to provide means and ways to help so that we address something that obviously went wrong,” Fahmy said in an interview on the Confederation of African Football website.

“We work to make sure we deliver successful events.”

Burkina Faso, Sudan, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Togo and Cape Verde Islands all forfeited games for fielding ineligible players, with Cape Verde losing its place in the final World Cup playoffs for fielding a player while he was meant to be suspended. Equatorial Guinea was punished for offending twice.

Liberia is the latest to be investigated after a case was opened against it by Fifa on Thursday and Fahmy said the problem appeared to be isolated to Africa.

“We have noted with some concern what has happened with a number of teams falling foul to the rules of the competition, which are clearly spelt out,” Fahmy said. “This only happened with one continent, Africa, and others like Europe, Asia or South America did not experience the same problems where disciplinary action had to be taken. We have been saying we need to look into what happened.”

While Cape Verde paid the biggest price for playing defender Fernando Varela in a decisive 2-0 win over Tunisia, which it later forfeited to be thrown out the playoffs, Ethiopia also nearly didn’t progress after mistakenly fielding suspended midfielder Minyahile Beyene, for which it was stripped of a win against Botswana.

The Ethiopian federation said officials “forgot” Minyahile was suspended and the country’s football leadership promised not to stand for re-election later this year because of the error.

Like Ethiopia, Burkina Faso came through a forfeited game to make the decisive 10-team playoffs and have a chance at a first World Cup appearance and Fahmy still welcomed the progress of those two despite their earlier sanctions.

“It is interesting and l think the playoffs will provide some good matches,” Fahmy said. “It is also good to have new sides like Ethiopia and Burkina Faso competing at this level.”

Africa’s final two-legged playoffs to decide its five teams at the World Cup begin next month.

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