The world’s football governing body, FIFA, has warned Tunisia that its national football team risks being barred from next month’s World Cup in Qatar if the government continues to meddle in football-related activities.
FIFA has clearly stated in its constitution that all its member federations must be free from governmental and political intervention.
The warning follows frequent statements by Kamel Deguiche, the minister of youth and sports for Tunisia, concerning the potential “dissolution of federal bureaux.”
FIFA has deemed Deguiche’s statement to be an attempt to tamper with the Tunisia Football Federation’s (FTF) management. The country’s football federation has been asked to provide further information about attempts to influence its internal affairs and threats to disband its office.
The organization, which is based in Zurich, also reminded the FTF that member federations “must by law manage their business independently and without undue interference from external parties.”
In a letter to FTF, Kenny Jean-Marie, FIFA’s director of Member Federations, warned that any breach of these commitments could result in sanctions under FIFA statutes, including suspension of the relevant association.
If FIFA were to impose a ban, neither Tunisian clubs nor the national team could participate in either continental or international tournaments.
The 2004 Africa Cup of Nations champions are set to compete in group D, which includes the current World Cup champions, France, as well as Denmark, and Australia.
Tunisia will kick off its World Cup campaign against Denmark on November 22. The Carthage Eagles have made five previous World Cup finals appearances but have never advanced past the group stage. This time around, the North Africans have the potential to cause an upset and qualify for the next round at the expense of Denmark and Australia.
FIFA has given the FTF till Friday next week to respond to its stance in light of the minister’s remarks.
Local Tunisian clubs have also labeled the FTF as a corrupt organization. One club, Chebba, accused the organization and its president, Wadie Jary, of knowingly misleading the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April 2021 in a ruling that was made against the club.
FIFA is known to be very swift in imposing sanctions. FIFA has already taken action this year, banning Kenya and Zimbabwe after their governments interfered with local football associations. Zimbabwe is still serving its suspension and cannot compete in international tournaments.
India’s was also suspended in August due to “undue influence from third parties,” which put the country’s hosting of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in jeopardy. However, FIFA later lifted India’s suspension.
FIFA is worried about a number of statements, not just one in particular. Over the past few months, the Minister of Sport has urged the FTF to reconsider kickoff times and postpone the domestic league.
The minister once suggested that the Ministry of Sport has the power to disband federal bureaux in accordance with Tunisian legislation.
It would be a shame for Tunisia to be banned from the World Showpiece just a couple of weeks before it begins. Many Tunisian and African football fans will be disappointed if Tunisia is banned.
Tunisians are now waiting to see how the football association and the government will respond to the warning. The association has been given just one week to respond.