With just eight days left to the start of 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Ghana, Harambee Starlets’ chances of participating lie in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Wednesday reinstated Equatorial Guinea to the continental event, leaving Kenya, who had taken up their spot after the former were banned, in disarray.
The Central Africans defeated Starlets 3-2 on aggregate to qualify for AWCON in June but Kenya successfully filed a protest at CAF seeking their disqualification for fielding Anette Jacky Messomo, an ineligible player.
However, the Appeals Board declared Equatorial Guinea’s appeal admissible, prompting Football Kenya Federation (FKF) to seek redress at CAS, while threatening to have the tournament stopped until a resolution is reached.
“We are profoundly astonished by the Appeal Board of CAF’s decision to reinstate the Equatorial Guinea to the 2018 AWCON 10 days to the commencement of the tournament. The decision by the CAF Appeals Board is a great injustice not only to the Kenya national women’s football team Harambee Starlets but also to the millions of Kenyan fans spread across the world,” read part of FKF’s official statement on the matter.
FKF has written to CAF expressing displeasure with the November 7 ruling and initiated an appeal process at CAS with a view to having Kenya included in the tournament and/or stopping the same from commencing until the matter is heard and resolved.
The federation maintains Messomo is not eligible to play for Equatorial Guinea as she is not a bona-fide citizen of the country, having lived and played all her football in Cameroon and Europe. Messomo is said to have been born in Cameroon on March 1, 1993 and started playing club football at the age of 15 at Minafe Yaounde and at no time has she played club football in Equatorial Guinea or domiciled there.
On October 17 when the decision to ban Equatorial Guinea was made, a letter dated August 30 from the Cameroonian federation confirmed that the player in question is of Cameroonian nationality. They went on to deny ever receiving a request from Equatorial Guinea in order for the player to change her national association.
The country’s federation claimed Messomo benefited from her grandfather’s nationality and that she has been living in Equatorial Guinea since childhood. However, they failed to support their allegations with sufficient evidence.