JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, January 5 – A Namibia bid to have Burkina Faso kicked out of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations begins Friday at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Swiss city Lausanne.
The Burkinabe convincingly won a qualifying group for the January 21-February 12 tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but Namibian officials believe they did so fielding an ineligible player.
Cameroon-born and Chechnya-based left-back Herve Zengue is the footballer at the centre of a storm with the ‘Stallions’ claiming the fact that he married a Burkinabe makes him eligible.
Zengue played in both matches against Namibia, which Burkina Faso won 4-0 in Ouagadougou and 4-1 in Windhoek en route to a place in Malabo-based Group B with title co-favourites Ivory Coast, Angola and Sudan.
But Namibia insist the rules of world football governing body FIFA permit a player to turn out for another country only if a parent or grandparent was born there or if he has resided in his adopted home for at least five years.
Although Zengue does not meet any of the criteria, Cairo-based African ruling body CAF dismissed two appeals by Namibia on a technicality over the way the protest was lodged.
Significantly, Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte omitted 25-year-old Zengue from his provisional squad for the Cup of Nations although he did include three Ivory Coast-born footballers.
CAF officials have remained tight-lipped over the appeal to CAS while Namibia say that if they are successful, the points from the qualifiers against Burkina Faso should be awarded to the ‘Brave Warriors’.
Receiving the six points would lift Namibia to the top of the table and officials in Windhoek claim they should then replace Burkina Faso in Group B at the biennial African football showcase.
“What happened at CAF was not a true reflection of the case and if CAS look into the details they will allow Namibia to participate at the Cup of Nations,” says optimistic national coach Bernard Kaanjuka.
He is taking no chances and the national squad has been camped in capital Windhoek since late last year and forced a creditable pre-Christmas 0-0 friendly draw away to Angola.
It could prove an ironic fixture as Namibia would play Angola in the opening round of the Cup of Nations on January 22 at the 15,000-seat Estadio Malabo if the appeal succeeds.