The 2022-2023 season of the DRC's Ligue 1 has been declared void by FECOFA's Normalisation Committee following the stoppage of the championship before the end of the first leg. CONOR then published a ranking to be taken into account for this season, adding up the points from the last four seasons for which the final rankings had been validated. A practice not accepted by all the clubs.
As expected, the 2022-2023 DRC Ligue 1 season has been cancelled by the FECOFA normalisation committee. The decision follows the definitive stoppage of the championship due to a lack of financial resources, even though the first leg had not yet been completed and not all the teams had played the same number of matches. On the one hand, there is the club with the greatest number of matches played, AS V.Club, which played 11 matches out of a possible 19 in the first leg, and on the other, Sa Majesté Sanga Balende, which only played 6 games.
Who will play in Africa?
The problem lies in deciding which teams should represent the DRC in the forthcoming CAF interclub competitions. As the DRC has a quota of 4 clubs, the top two ranked teams in Ligue 1 will play in the Champions League, while the third-placed team will play in the Confederation Cup, accompanied by the winner of the Congo Cup. But with the cancellation of the season, how can this choice of representatives be made?
Meeting on Saturday 3 June to announce the cancellation of the season, the FECOFA normalisation committee decided to publish a ranking to be taken into account for this season. This ranking is based on the cumulative points recorded by each club over the last 4 seasons for which the final rankings have been validated. These were the 2018-2019 and 20219-2021 seasons, which were played out in their entirety, the 2020-2021 season, which was abruptly halted in the middle of the second leg following the Covid-19, and the 2021-2022 season, for which the final standings of the single leg have been validated. The Top 5 is made up of Tout Puissant Mazembe (256 points), followed by AS V.Club (244 points), Maniema Union (210 points), DCMP (180 points) and Lupopo (161 points). According to the usual CAF rules, TP Mazembe and AS V.Club should play in the next Champions League, while AS Maniema Union should play in the Confederation Cup along with the winner of the Congo Cup. However, since the latter competition has not yet been organised, DCMP are likely to be the second Congolese club in the C2 next season, as they are fourth in the CONOR rankings and two-time holders of the Coupe du Congo.
FC Lupopo's frustrations
The rankings published by CONOR were not accepted by all the clubs, particularly AS V. Club and FC Saint Eloi Lupopo. The yellow-and-blue club from Lubumbashi, who were in second place in the Ligue 1 standings at the time of the stoppage, have been sacrificed by CONOR's rankings, which put them in fifth position and therefore ineligible for the next CAF interclub competitions. The Lumpa are relying on the first paragraph of article 62 of the 28th edition of Vodacom Ligue 1, which stipulates that "when a sudden event occurs making it impossible to continue the championship, LINAFOOT shall stop the championship as it stands and publish the standings as they stand, taking into account the results of matches whose scores have been approved". However, the other two paragraphs of this article state that the "definitive" standings can only be published if the championship comes to a halt during the second leg or after the end of the first leg. Fans of FC Saint Eloi Lupopo even demonstrated in the streets of Lubumbashi on Tuesday 6 June against CONOR's ranking.
Given the scale of the protest by Lupopo fans and the discontent of certain clubs, the Minister of Sport and Leisure, François Kabulo, called a meeting of CONOR on Tuesday 6 June to clarify the situation. FECOFA general secretary Innocent Kibundulu said: "The published ranking was intended to determine the 12 League 1 clubs who will take part in the next FECOFA general assemblies, which will take place this year. So far, no club has been designated to represent the DRC in the next CAF interclub competitions, pending the regulations issued by the African body".
This statement did not convince sporting opinion. On the contrary, it has fuelled even more debate. For sports analyst Eddy Kanku Kadima, the FEOCFA secretary-general has played for a lull that could push CONOR to change things. "Nowhere in its decision did CONOR indicate that this ranking was published to determine the 12 clubs that will take part in its next general assemblies. Since when has a ranking been published for this purpose? CAF's regulations are clear. In the case of the DRC, which has a quota of 4 clubs, the top two in League 1 go to the Champions League and the third goes to the Confederation Cup, along with the winner of the Congo Cup. I feel that CONOR has taken a step backwards and that things could perhaps change, because this ranking did not take into account the efforts of all the clubs, and Lupopo's protest was normal," he declared.
The case is far from over, and the next few days will tell us more.