Mali on edge of 'civil war' over football

A Mali fan holds up a placcard with the painting of the country's president Assimi Goita | Photo Credit: Courtesy

FOOTBALL Mali on edge of 'civil war' over football

Shafic Kiyaga 21:35 - 22.08.2023

The stakes are undoubtedly high, with the FEMAFOOT elections scheduled for Tuesday, 29 August. The onus is now on FIFA to ensure that football's integrity in Mali remains uncompromised.

FIFA has been beckoned by Mali's sports ministry to probe into the alarming allegations surrounding the electoral process of the nation's football federation, FEMAFOOT.

The concerns loom large over potential repercussions, with the ministry cautioning about "disturbances to public order" and even creating "splits in the population between different regions."

This call to action comes on the heels of grievances expressed by several candidates challenging the legitimacy of FEMAFOOT's electoral screening procedure.

Controversially, these allegations have surfaced amidst the ongoing detention of incumbent president Mamoutou Toure, who is slated to be the uncontested frontrunner in the forthcoming presidential race.

Toure is currently on pre-trial detention since August 9, by the country's anti-corruption agency over misappropriation of public funds.

The heart of the issue appears to revolve around the exclusion of three notable candidates from the race. These include Salaha Baby, Amadou Mahamane Sangho, and Sekou Diogo Keita.

Their elimination has caused significant discontent, so much so that Baby has resorted to appealing the decision at the esteemed Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Mali's sports ministry communicated directly with FIFA's outgoing secretary general, Fatma Samoura.

In the letter, the ministry highlighted concerns stating that excluded candidates have "identified specific points of violation of the rules," subsequently putting the entirety of the process into contention.

Such violations could lead the nation down a path where the future of football in Mali is at stake.

The ministry's plea articulates that they "cannot accept that the proper functioning of football in Mali is damaged."

This alarming backdrop is compounded by the arrest of the 66-year-old Toure, a key figure in the football scene, not just as FEMAFOOT's president since 2019 but also a member of FIFA's influential executive council.

The corruption accusations against him trace back to his tenure as the financial director of Mali's national assembly before his FEMAFOOT reign.

Complicating the scenario further, FEMAFOOT's general secretary Modibo Sidibe and Issiaka Sidibe, ex-president of Mali Premier League club AS Real de Bamako, are also in custody facing severe charges.

While the sports ministry of Mali emphasizes the urgency of FIFA's intervention, it also treads carefully, understanding FIFA's stringent policies against state interference.

FIFA's track record of penalizing countries for governmental involvement is well-documented, with nations like Zimbabwe, Kenya, and even Mali itself previously facing bans.