With rebel forces controlling the northern part of the country and a military junta ruling down south, fears of insecurity keep soaring ahead of Afcon and WC qualifying
By Kingsley Kobo
A year ago, neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire was in shambles, with sporting activities completely suspended and the national team playing their home matches outside of the country.
Today it is Mali in flames. An invasion of Tuareg rebels and terrorist groups in the north and a military coup in the capital Bamako have transformed what was a haven of peace and tranquillity into a danger zone, where people now think twice before visiting.
Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita went so far as to call on all Malians to eschew partisan interests and preserve peace and national unity during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
His call was never heeded. His voice and personality were deemed insignificant to the deciders who mapped out the destiny of 14 million people spread over an area covering about 1.2 million square kilometres.
Caring Keita | His peace campaigns and prayers were not enough to save Mali
Non-governmental organisations are reporting increasing figures of casualties and refugees, as the humanitarian crisis coupled with regional embargoes continue to consolidate the visions of doomsayers.
Expatriates are being advised to vacate the landlocked country with immediate effect while travellers have been asked to simply divert their trips from Mali.
Temporarily held off after the March 22 military coup, the Mali domestic league timidly resumed a week later, with the football federation persuading club managers to release their players to honour scheduled fixtures, with security guarantees from the league. Only three games out of 14 were held with less than 30 people attending all three meetings.
Football takes a back seat | The Tuareg rebels love their cause more than football
Algerian players recently expressed their fears concerning travelling to Bamako to play the Eagles during the second round of the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers set for early June, regardless of safety assurances from the Mali FA, in a country now without a sports minister.
Uganda champions Revenue Authority have backed out of their weekend clash against Malian club Djoliba, after alerting Caf that they were not making the trip to west Africa due to security reasons.
The risk with Mali’s situation is that none of the existing governing entities have legitimacy before the international community, and thus none are likely to bear responsibility for any unforeseen circumstances.
The junta, who has been urging the Mali football body to give security guarantees to visiting teams, is being threatened by west African regional body Ecowas. The bloc could at any time send in its 3,000 troops to dislodge the Bamako-based military ruling council.
Malian refugees | Innocent families driven from their home by bullets and missiles
While the Tuareg rebel group says it will no longer push down south towards the capital to conquer more towns, its allied groups – the Islamists Ansar Dine and the Al-Qaeda organisation in the Islamic Maghreb – have vowed to seize the entire territory of Mali and install sharia – the moral code and religious law of Islam.
After finishing third in the 2012 Afcon, the Mali government revealed rich plans to develop its football like never before by investing in grassroots infrastructure, but it has been ousted and broken, with no more power or budget to act on those positive objectives.