CAIRO – Two-time Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winner, Herve Renard, slammed referee Louis Hakizimana’s handling of Morocco’s match against Namibia at Al Salam Stadium, before calling on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to take care of the stars of the show - the players.
The Atlas Lions and the Brave Warriors started their Afcon campaign in boiling hot conditions on Sunday. The temperature soared to 38°C in the match that kicked off at 4.30pm. Renard and everyone at this continental showpiece knew beforehand that it would be hot, especially those playing in the day.
CAF anticipated such temperatures and released a media advisory that stated:
“At this level, Fifa recommends three minutes rest and refreshing breaks in the 30th and 75th minutes. These three minute breaks must be properly prepared in logistical terms, before the tournament and before each match and require the provision of cold containers on wheels to put crushed ice, drinks for referees and small towels cold and wet to place around the neck for 26 people (4 referees + 22 players) for minutes 30 and 75 if necessary.”
The Uganda versus the Democratic Republic of Congo match, played at Cairo International Stadium, had a water break - but that wasn’t the case in Morocco’s 1-0 win. The players had to steal a moment to get water with the Rwandan referee refusing to give the players a water break.
“It was very difficult for us,” Renard said. “I was very surprised, it’s not a complaint but I can say it since we won, why were the players not allowed to drink water during the first and the second half? How is that possible? I watched the other game and it was possible, but today it’s not possible. Strange! If you have played football, you know that you have to drink something, especially after 25 minutes. So please, the organisers have to think about that. Think about the players. The players are the one who make the show. It’s not us in the stands, it’s not us on the bench (that people come to see). It’s the players who put on the show.”
Man of the Match, M’bark Boussoufa of Morocco was also frustrated after the encounter.
“I can tell you that it is very, very hard to play because it is in the middle of the day and there isn’t much air,” Boussoufa said. “If you make a couple of efforts, you can feel, especially in the second half, that it is very difficult.
It would be nice if the referee could give us a break after 30 minutes so that the players can drink. I asked the referee and he told me no. But it’s very, very hard, even for professional players.”
The Atlas Lions’ next two matches will be in slightly cooler conditions. They will take on Ivory Coast at 7pm on Friday before facing Bafana Bafana at 6pm on Monday.
Renard has a personal connection in both those matches. He led the Elephants to glory in the 2015 Afcon, while he camped in South Africa before winning the 2013 Afcon with Zambia. He was also a favourite for the Bafana post when the South African Football Association (Safa) was looking for Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba’s replacement. Cash-strapped Safa eventually hired Stuart Baxter.
“Since I left Ivory Coast, we have played them three times already. It’s a lot,” Renard said. “We will be playing them once again. We will have to be ready. South Africa, I have a lot of respect for this team like I have a lot of respect for Namibia. I know very well that in the PSL there are a lot of very good players.
They have a good coach, so it will be a tough game.”