Why is Namibia taking the Zengue case to Cas?

By Piers EdwardsBBC Sport
NFA official Barry Rukoro (left), Caf's match commissioner, referee Jerome Damon and the captain of Namibia
NFA secretary-general Barry Rukoro (left) oversees Namibia's protest against Herve Zengue of Burkina Faso prior to the two sides' Windhoek meeting in June

This week, the Namibian FA (NFA) finally took its case against Burkina Faso defender Herve Zengue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has twice rejected the protest, so why is the NFA continuing with an appeal set to cost them some US$50,000?

When Herve Zengue made his debut for Burkina Faso in March this year, he set in motion a course of events that could ultimately eliminate the Stallions from January's Africa Cup of Nations finals.

That is what Namibia are hoping will happen - in the belief that the Cameroon-born Zengue is ineligible to represent the Burkinabe.

Why so?

Simply because the defender does not fulfil any of the relevant qualifying criteria outlined by Fifa for a player born outside of the country, the Namibians say.

These include the stipulation that either a parent or grand-parent must have been born in the relevant territory or that the player in question must have spent five years of his life in his adopted nation.

Yet it seems that Zengue falls down on such demands - with his connection to Burkina Faso simply being that he holds the country's passport after marrying his Burkinabe wife.

But this is not enough for Fifa, who clamped down on players switching nationalities after the high-profile case of Qatar trying to naturalise then high-flying Brazilian Ailton in 2004.

Zengue received his Burkinabe passport earlier this year and promptly made his debut for the Stallions afterwards, in the 4-0 defeat of Namibia in Ouagadougou.

By the time the return fixture came around, the NFA was ready with its case - protesting before their 4-1 home defeat after discovering that Zengue's eligibility was in serious doubt.

According to the regulations laid out by Caf, the Namibians lodged a protest with the referee before the match in the presence of both captains and the match commissioner.

However, Caf has consistently rejected the Namibians' complaints about Zengue - saying that neither captain signed the protest sheet - a criterion which had to be met for the appeal to be successful (according to Article 37.1 of the 2012 Nations Cup regulations).

This is the main reason that Caf has thrown out the Namibians' protests about Zengue, having done so twice after the NFA appealed the original finding in late October.

Caf also said that when the NFA cited Article 36.12 - which states any team fielding a 'non-qualified or a suspended player' shall lose the match by penalty - the ruling had been misunderstood.

This seems open to interpretation though because if true, there would appear to be no ruling in Caf's existing Nations Cup regulations that outlines a punishment for fielding an ineligible player.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is sure to look at this ruling - and may also find its way to Article 41.

This states that 'any team committing fraud on the identity of [a player's] qualification … will be considered looser (sic) of a match and will definitely be eliminated from the competition by decision of the Organising Committee which will decree as soon as the incriminating facts are clearly established'.

And this latter point is what really upsets the Namibians for despite their repeated queries, Caf has never probed Zengue's eligibility at all.

"It is a travesty of justice because Caf, for one reason or another, does not want to enter the debate of whether Zengue is eligible or not," NFA general-secretary Barry Rukoro has told BBC Sport.

"That, to me, is just mind-blowing. We just don't understand why Caf does not want to enter that debate - and avoid doing so at all costs. For me, it flies right in the face of fair play and in the face of why we have regulations in the first place."

Despite several requests, the Confederation of African Football has failed to provide an answer to the BBC over whether it will ever open an investigation into Zengue.

And this wholesale failure to investigate more about the Russia-based footballer has prompted the NFA's decision to go to Cas - one which it hopes sport's highest legal body can deliberate upon in good time before the finals.

Nonetheless, so convinced are the Namibians in the merits of their case that the squad are currently in camp in the capital Windhoek - preparing for a finals that they are not yet formally part of.