A media officer banned by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) for five years for “indecent conduct” during an ongoing tournament in Algeria has denied wrongdoing.
Beninois journalist Felix Peperipe, who was working for Caf at the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in the north African nation, was suspended on Monday.
Peperipe said that Caf’s ruling that he had tried to kiss a woman working at the tournament is “false”.
An investigation by Caf’s Disciplinary Committee found him guilty of “violating the Caf statutes and of indecent conduct”.
“I am truly disappointed by what is happening at Caf and more specifically by the disciplinary committee,” he told BBC Sport Africa from his home in Benin.
Caf’s ruling is clear about its suspension of Peperipe, who had been working in the city of Constantine and who has worked for the African football body, as well as global body Fifa, for the last five years.
“The gentleman in question was found guilty by the Disciplinary Committee of violating the Caf statutes and of indecent conduct and a sanction banning him from all Caf competitions for five years was imposed,” Caf Disciplinary Committee president Raymond Hack told BBC Sport Africa.
The Caf decision ruled that Peperipe had tried to kiss a woman referred to as victim ‘X’, who BBC Sport Africa understands to be a Moroccan woman working in VAR in Algeria on 19 January, shortly after which a second complaint come through.
“The perpetrator asked [victim ‘X’] to come in to collect [tickets] allowing her team to access the stadium,” Caf’s ruling stated.
“As soon as she received the envelope, she got ready to leave but [Peperipe] tried to persuade her to stay for a beer, she refused and as he left he attacked her trying to kiss her. She pushed him and ran out of the bedroom.
“Victim ‘X’ also provided Caf with the WhatsApp conversation between her and the perpetrator that took place after the incident, where it appeared that [Peperipe sent] her ‘a thousand apologies’ for said incident.”
Shortly after deciding to provisionally suspend Peperipe, Caf says it received a second complaint from victim ‘Y’ detailing that the Beninois had, during the last Chan in Cameroon in 2021, “invited her to his room where he would pay her the necessary amount for a certain act”.
Peperipe has not responded to BBC questions about the alleged incident in Cameroon but did anwer regarding the one in Algeria.
“When you push someone out, you have to have proof. But there is no proof,” he said.
“I sincerely regret the speed with which the disciplinary committee has come to its decision. I have never seen such speed at Caf, where they still have a lot of open cases lying around.
“For example, the Moroccans have boycotted the Chan but Caf has yet to sanction them – is that normal?”
Peperipe claimed he is the victim of an ongoing diplomatic battle between Chan hosts Algeria and their neighbours Morocco, who withdrew from the tournament shortly before it started.
Caf rules state that any team that withdraws before the competition will be automatically barred from the next edition of the finals as well as receive a $5,000 fine.
Peperipe said that he felt a video in which he told local Algerian organisers, who had arranged a birthday party for him, that he hoped they would win hosting rights for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations – a competition for which Morocco has also bid – has counted against him.
“That is the ‘casus belli’,” he ventured.
“That evening I met some Moroccans [working at Chan] who told me I had become a star on social media via the video and that I had been celebrating with their ‘enemies’.
“When I asked who they were, they said ‘the Algerians’. I replied that I had spoken with my heart.”
Claiming that “African football is dominated by Moroccans today”, the former Caf employee – who was not approached by Algerian police – suggested his ban is a political decision.
Caf declined to comment on his claims about the political nature of his ban.
In the run-up to the 2025 Nations Cup host vote on 10 February, tensions between Morocco and Algeria – who cut diplomatic ties in August 2021 (after Algiers accused Rabat of ‘hostile actions’) – are high, and only exacerbated by the former’s decision not to defend the CHAN title they won in 2020
With Algerian airspace closed to Moroccan flights since the end of diplomatic relations, the CHAN hosts refused to allow the Atlas Lions to fly directly from Rabat to Constantine, saying the team could have taken an indirect flight.
Tensions were then further stoked at the Chan’s opening ceremony when Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zwelivelile Mandela – a guest of Algerian organisers in a stadium named after the late South African President – called for a “fight to free Western Sahara from oppression“.
Former Spanish colony Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated area, on Africa’s northwest coast, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Since then, it has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, with Algeria backing the latter’s claim for independence.
The Moroccan Football Federation – whose president Faouzi Lekjaa, a former Caf vice-president, is seen as a key figure in the African game – has since protested to Caf about the comments, saying Mandela’s words had no connection with football and were targeted exclusively at Morocco.
Caf has since launched an investigation, with no decision yet made public.
Along with Algeria and Morocco, Caf is also weighing up a joint bid from Benin and Nigeria while South Africa and Zambia are also keen to stage the 2025 finals which Guinea was originally set to host.