BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
When the African champions, Cameroon face Nigeria in the first of the back-to-back World Cup qualifying encounters next month, the Indomitable Lions will be without defender, Ernest Mabouka who was given the matching order in the FIFA Confederations Cup group tie with Germany in Russia.
The 29 year old was given the red card in the 64th minute of the match which Cameroon lost 3-1. Even though the referee’s decision was considered harsh, it was a video assistant referee review that revealed that Mabouka had a late challenge on Germany’s Emre Can.
By regulations, a red carded player misses the next match of the competition. But the Group B match happened to be Cameroon’s last in the Confederations Cup prompting Sports Village Square to make enquiries with FIFA technical officials who were in Russia during the competition.
A Nigerian-American FIFA referee instructor, Abiodun Okulaja, assisted in getting answers to the enquiry. He did not want a direct comment owing to the fact that Nigeria and Cameroon will be meeting in a competitive clash.
He helped in directing the enquiries to another official, Esfandiar Baharmast, who is often remembered for the penalty kick he awarded Norway against Brazil in the dying minutes of a group match at France ‘98 World Cup.
According to Baharmast, a FIFA referees’ instructor who was at Russia 2017, expulsion of players is carried over to the affected team’s next official match.
Cameroon’s next official match is against Nigeria in the World Cup qualifier. But Cameroon can circumvent the suspension if they organize official friendly sanction by FIFA for their A squad before the qualifying match against Nigeria.
Such a match, it was explained to Sports Village Square, will also count as official match. The only available window for official matches happens to be the time Cameroon will be away to Nigeria.
But the absence of Mabouka may not mean much to Cameroon as the defender is a late called up to the team. At 29, he has just eight international matches, three of which were at the Confederation Cup.
The MSK Zilina of Slovakia right back made his debut in the build up to the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon when he played against DR Congo in January.