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'CAF officials 'promised' us next season's CL title if we continued final against Esperance,' claims Wydad's president

Ahram Online , Monday 3 Jun 2019
Esperance crowned champions as Wydad forfeit final over VAR no-show (Photo: AFP)

Morocco's Wydad Casablanca's president Saeed El-Nasrie claimed that CAF officials "promised Morocco's Wydad Casablanca the next season's African Champions League title if we completed Saturday's final against Tunisia's Esperance," adding that he "turned them down."

The final match of the CAF Champions League was abandoned after Wydad players walked off to protest a disallowed goal that was not referred to the video assistant referee (VAR). After a stoppage of around 90 minutes, home side Esperance were declared the winners of Africa's top club competition by the referee.

“All the officials without any exceptions bargained with us; they offered us to continue the match and promised that we will win the title next season in return; that offer I rejected,” El-Nasrie told a Moroccan TV channel on Monday.

“I told them that we only ask for our rights and for fair play. I said, you informed us that VAR technology would be used in the return match like what happened in the first leg, and if not, you should have told us,” he added.

Esperance led 1-0 in the final second-leg in Rades through a first-half goal from Youcef Belaili, before Walid El Karti levelled the aggregate score with a header at 59 minutes, only to be denied by the linesman's offside flag.

Television replays showed that El Karti was clearly onside but Gambian referee Bakary Gassama did not check a video replay, although the VAR technology was due to be introduced in the final.

However, it turned out that VAR was not working due to a malfunction.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad stepped onto the pitch and spent almost 30 minutes in discussions with officials in a futile effort to get the game restarted.

With Wydad refusing to resume play unless the VAR was checked, Gasama blew his final whistle and Esperance celebrated wildly on the pitch.

On Sunday, El-Nasrie said that Wydad had not withdrawn from Saturday's final, vowing to go to FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the matter.

"We will take all the legal actions to get our rights after this injustice. We will lodge complaints to FIFA and CAS. CAF is the only responsible for what happened in the match," El-Nasrie said then.

In a statement on Saturday, CAF said they would hold a meeting of their executive committee on Tuesday to discuss the incident.

Controversy also engulfed the first leg, which ended with a 1-1 draw and Wydad protesting against Egyptian referee Gehad Greisha's decision to disallow a goal by them due to a handball in the build-up. Greisha was suspended for six months by the African governing body for what it called his "poor performance."

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