CAF 'poor organization' sparks journalists' outcry

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 21 Dec 2010

CAF awards ceremony: elates winners, angers journalists

CAF Ceremony

Some one dozen journalists stormed out of a news conference held in Cairo following the African Footballer of the Year award ceremony. They walked out in a protest against the Confederation of African Football (CAF), for what the journalists perceived was a poorly organized event.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who was named the continent's best player in 2010 after beating off competition from Ghana's Asamoah Gyan and Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast, answered just one question, while an Egyptian journalist delivered a one-minute rant.

 "I just want to say one thing to you," Hassan Khalafallah of Egyptian daily Al-Ahram said, before actually going on to express his anger. Khalafallah was called on to speak under the pretence of asking Eto'o a question. Instead, though, he began to criticize the event.

"What happened today is a complete farce which we did not expect to happen in Egypt. We didn't expect to be treated that way.

 "We were forced to stay away from the ceremony and were not even able to watch it on monitors. CAF should not have invited us to this event if it had decided to only allow TV crews and photographers to attend it.

"Don't cut off the microphone," he shouted, before calling on fellow journalists to leave the room.

The majority of journalists did, in fact, walk out, leaving a big void in the conference hall of Intercontinental hotel.

However, the remaining attendees continued where they left off, with Eto'o answering a question posed by South African journalist Mark Gleeson, who presented the ceremony along with Lebanon's Ali Alawieh.

"I know that I've made history by being named the African Player of the Year for a record fourth time but I don't think I'm the best player in the history of the continent," the Inter Milan ace said with a smile.

Plastic barrier

Things worked smoothly before the ceremony, but a dispute erupted just minutes before it began.

Journalists, carrying their laptops and notebooks, were stunned when they entered the conference room. They then discovered that they would not be able to watch the event itself due to a plastic barrier placed midway through the hall.

They looked in vain for a CAF representative that would hear their protests, but could only find security personnel who said they were following the instructions of the absent high-ranking officials.

On the other side of the barrier stood the likes of CAF president Issa Hayatou, Egyptian FA chairman Samir Zaher, and the awards nominees, including Egypt coach Hassan Shehata and skipper Ahmed Hassan.

When Ahli midfielder Hassan stepped up to receive the best African-based player award, several journalists were still debating who had won the award, as their position did not allow them to hear much of what was happening on the other side.

They had to stand on tiptoes to watch the event and confirm that Hassan had indeed scooped the prize.

"Some people might think that the journalists overreacted, but that reaction was the natural one to what happened," Khalafallah said after the ceremony.

"We did not find anyone who would listen to us; no one even tried to switch on the monitors to help us watch the event. We had no choice but to quit.

"CAF officials no longer care about the media. They only care about making billions of dollars from such events."

The plastic barrier was not the only problem journalists encountered on that warm Monday night in Cairo.

Some foreign reporters complained about the lack of translation headphones and the lack of internet access, as they needed a username and password to have access to the service.

"The Union of Egyptian Sports Critics intends to lodge a complaint to CAF's general secretary over what happened," Khalafallah concluded.

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