Benin players had to play a game in Rwanda, after CAF changed their minds at the last moment. Have the Cheetahs been harmed by the instance?
Since they are no longer nicknamed the Squirrels, but the Cheetahs, after an order from the Beninese Minister of Sports dated February 17, the players of the national team of Benin have chained the adventures. In reality, moreover, the problems began long before for the players of coach Gernot Rohr.
Indeed, while the Squirrels hoped to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon on March 30, 2021, they had experienced a funny moment in Sierra Leone. Benin refused to play after its star players tested positive for Covid-19. The match had been postponed, before being moved again because of cases detected within the Sierra Leonean selection. Sierra Leone had qualified and Benin had denounced an ambush.
Two years later, the Beninese Football Federation (FBF) once again feels aggrieved. Benin and Rwanda are to face each other in the qualifiers for CAN 2024, which will take place in Côte d'Ivoire. While the Squirrels, now called Cheetahs, were to receive the Rwandans in Cotonou on March 22, before a return match scheduled five days later in Huye, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) turned everything upside down.
An agreement fallen from the sky
Considering that the infrastructures of Huye, in particular tourist, were not adapted, the CAF therefore decided that the two matches would be played in Cotonou. But the Rwandan players decided otherwise: they joined Kigali, to play their match at the Pelé stadium. Except that the latter is not approved by CAF, the stands cannot accommodate spectators. But CAF still gave its agreement to Rwanda and imposed a match behind closed doors.
How could CAF have given its agreement? Observers see this as the result of the friendship between FIFA boss Gianni Infantino and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. On March 16, FIFA organized its congress in Kigali.
But this decision by CAF caused a real earthquake: because the return match had to take place on March 29, i.e. outside the dates of the international break which was to end the day before. Benin therefore had to do without several international players, who joined their respective clubs. Without counting on Rwanda, which played a player who should not play, because suspended.
The Beninese have filed a reservation to denounce the presence of Kevin Muhire on the lawn. Rwanda should logically lose this match on green carpet. A boon for Benin which, in the event of a victory on the green carpet, could return to match Mozambique, behind Senegal. It remains to be seen whether the logic will be respected. Because, as the coach of Benin ironically, "CAF has already made us suffer a lot before this match".