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ENGLISH VERSION

Benin's coach Michel Dussuyer gets ready for Sierra Leone

Benin's coach Michel Dussuyer gets ready for Sierra Leone

Benin is awaiting the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), concerning the unsettled dust around a crucial AFCON 2021 qualifier against Sierra Leone. The game which will determine the 24th team to be in Cameroon next January was not played as programmed owing to increasing Covid concerns in Sierra Leone in the month of March 2021.

CAF says the match will be played between 12 and 14 June. Michel Dussuyer, the French coach of the Squirrels, has organized a training camp in Cotonou, with a friendly match against Zambia on 8 June, prior to facing Sierra Leone in Freetown.

 

CAS is expected to give its verdict in the next few days, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is expected to agree. How do you feel about this bizarre situation, more than two months after the events?

It is indeed a very complicated situation. This case has been dragging on for more than two months. It seems to me that there was a proven attempt at fraud on the part of Sierra Leone. In Freetown, we were told that five players (Khaled Adenon, Steve Mounié, Jodel Dossou, Saturnin Allagbé and Yohan Roche, editor's note) were positive for Covid-19. On the simple presentation of a blank sheet of paper, with five names written on it! We never received official documents from a laboratory in Freetown.

In fact, all five players tested negative when we returned to Benin, and again when they returned to France. CAF had decided to reschedule the match between 12 and 14 June. It responded to Sierra Leone's complaint that we should forfeit the match. But not to Benin's complaint, which put forward solid elements. That is why the federation took the matter to CAS...

It was a CAF commission, composed mainly of English-speaking persons, who considered that the Sierra Leonean arguments were admissible for the match to take place in June...

Yes, and that leaves the door open to all kinds of speculation. Stories of networks, relationships between certain people, etc... In fact, CAF obviously prefers that another body, in this case CAS, decides. But CAF has sent a very bad message to the federations. Clearly, it is "try to cheat, you never know, it may pass! "

Till date, you don't know if the match will take place, nor the possible date, nor even the place, because the president of the Beninese federation, Mathurin de Chacus, and several players do not want to set foot in Freetown again...

It's obvious that the way things went in Sierra Leone, with the reception we received, don't really make you want to go back there. But we have to prepare ourselves as if this match is going to take place, in Freetown or elsewhere. I sincerely hope that CAS will rule that there was a clear attempt at fraud, and that they will decide that Sierra Leone is disqualified. But until we have the verdict... I, as a technician, have had this in my head for some time. The players too. We have to work physically, but also mentally.

How do your players feel about the situation?

They want to go to Cameroon next year. They are professionals. Like myself, they feel that Sierra Leone tried to cheat and that they should be punished. But if we have to qualify on the pitch, we will do it. The players have come to Cotonou for this gathering. We are working seriously, with a first objective, the friendly match against Zambia on June 8. By then, we will know if our training camp ends on June 9 or around June 15...

Philemon MBALE / Alexis BILLEBAULT

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