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Just in: CAF cancels 2018/19 Champions League win, orders replay in S’Africa

Barely five days after Esperance of Tunisia had been declared winners of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) 2018/19 Champions League, the body, Wednesday evening took a far reaching decision cancelling the two-legged finals on grounds of irregularities and ruled that one final match will be replayed on a neutral ground.

The Total sponsored Champions League final first leg match was played on May 24, 2019 between Wydad Athletic Club and Esperance de Tunis in Morocco

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African Champions League – Esperance Sportive v Wydad Casablanca, Olympique de Rades Stadium, Rades, Tunisia – June 1, 2019 Esperance’s Moez ben Cherifia and Haythem Jouini celebrate with the trophy after winning the CAF Champions League REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

However, the second leg, played in Tunisia on May 31st, Friday, was marred by the crashing of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after Wydad scored a goal disallowed by the Congolese referee. Wydad players had called on the Referee to visit the VAR but signals given to the Referee showed that it has crashed, thus forcing the visiting Moroccan team to abandon the match at 58 minutes.

But after several interventions by officials and even the CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad, Wydad officials insisted that it is either VAR is visited or they won’t play again.

The waiting and begging games continued for more than an hour forcing the Congolese central referee to blow the final whistle signalling that Esperance, who had been on one goal lead was the winner having played one all in Morocco.

CAF CL VAR
Wydad players calling for VAR visit

But this evening, CAF relied on the multiple officiating errors committed both in the first and second leg and noted that the failure of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) during the second leg brought global embarrassment to the yearly tournament hence the unanimous approval for a replay that will only be one match on a neutral ground.

Recall that Business Hilights had shortly after the embarrassing second leg, published a story titled: https://businesshilights.com.ng/special-report-how-crashed-var-rubbished-esperance-caf-champions-league-win/.

Business Hilights gathered after a lengthy executive committee meeting in Paris Wednesday, CAF presidential advisor, Hedi Hamel made it clear that “The playing and security conditions were not met during the second leg of the CAF Champions League final, preventing the match from reaching its conclusion.”
“As a result, the match will have to be replayed at a ground outside of Tunisia… (and) Esperance will have to the give trophy back.”
“The match will be played after the Africa Cup of Nations at a date to be determined,” he added.
Recall that earlier before the match last Friday, Tunisian media had reported that officials were aware before the second leg that the VAR system was not working, but the players seemingly did not know.
Wydad believed they had levelled on 58 minutes when Walid el Karti headed a cross into the net. TV replays confirmed he was onside, but might have fouled an opponent with his shoulder, but the non functionality of VAR varnished all hopes as Moroccan stood their ground.
Accordingly, the continental football ruling body has ordered return of the trophy by Esperance of Tunisia and announced that the authentic finals of the CAF 2018/19 Champions League Finals will be played in South African national stadium after the fast approaching AFCON 2019 which will be hosted by Egypt.

CAF Chiefs
CAF Officials and chairman, Ahmad Ahmad mediating

Investigations revealed that part of the reasons why Wydad rejected continuing the match in Tunisia included the fact that the functionality of VAR had robbed them a winning goal in Morocco and led to the suspension of their team captain who was red carded during the match after a VAR review. CAF further announced that the new final date will be announced after the final match at the AFCON 2019 in Egypt.

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CAF Champions League Final’s VAR waiting game lasted more than one hour. Screen Photo by Business Hilights