By Mark Gleeson
JOHANNESBURG, June 3 - Three leading African clubs face sanctions this week as investigations into irregularities are held by the Confederation of African Football, who begun a week-long series of high-profile meetings in Cairo on Thursday. CAF Cup holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, Orlando Pirates of South Africa and the fabled Ghanaian club Asante Kotoko all face possible fines or suspensions if found guilty by the CAF's competition committee of various improprieties.
Asante Kotoko face charges of using a banned player in their Cup Winners' Cup second round tie against Al Masry of Egypt last month, which they lost on a penalty shootout. Former Ghanaian international striker George Arthur is currently banned by FIFA after a transfer dispute with his previous employers, Al Ahli of Egypt, but played in the first leg for Kotoko against Al Masry.
CS Sfaxien will be charged with trying to bribe the referee ahead of their CAF Cup second round, second leg match against Nkana FC of Zambia in Ndola last month. The other two clubs face charges of using banned or ineligible players. Two Sfax officials, club vice-chairman Fakhri Yaiche and committee member Fethi Boucetta, were arrested by Zambian police after the alleged incident, which came despite the Tunisian club having a handy 4-0 lead from the first leg two weeks earlier. The pair, as well as another official, Salaheddine Zahaf, have already been banned for life by an embarrassed Tunisian football federation but the club still has to answer to CAF.
A full report on the incident has been prepared by Leo Mugabe, president of the Zimbabwe Football Association and the match commissioner for the game in Zambia. He and referee Kabelo Molepo from Botswana alerted the police to the bribery attempt. CAF officials hinted this week that Sfax faced a heavy fine and possible suspension from future African club competitions if found guilty, but were unlikely to be kicked out of this year's tournament. Sfax lost the second leg 1-0 to Nkana but still qualified for the quarter-finals in September.
Pirates are the subject of a protest by Botswana defence Force XI, who lost 9-1 on aggregate to the South African club in the first round of the African Cup Winners' Cup in March. The Botswana military team are protesting against Pirates' use of Mozambican international defender Tomas, who they say was registered for the African club competition despite not being registered to play for Pirates in the South African domestic league. CAF rules state that a player must be licensed in domestic competition to be eligible to compete in any one of the three annual African club competitions. Tomas, signed late last year by Pirates, was not registered in South Africa's premier league because Pirates had already filled their quota of five foreign nationals in their squad. "We are hoping to get BDF restored in the competition," said Botswana Football Association secretary-general Ashford Mamelodi. The final decisions on the cases are expected to be announced on Sunday after being ratified by CAF's executive committee.
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