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2019 AFCON Qualifiers: Why Harambee Stars Cannot Celebrate Yet

Following Sunday's scintillating win over Ethiopia, the Kenyan football fraternity now awaits with bated breath communication from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) regarding the status of Sierra Leone.

Sources from Caf indicate that a decision will be made within the next two days, depending on the outcome of a meeting between Fifa and a delegation from Sierra Leone held today in Zurich.

This looming announcement is at the heart and mind of every Kenyan football enthusiast, as it will determine whether Kenya has indeed booked a place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), or if they need to beat Sierra Leone at home to confirm their position next year's finals. Stars lost 2-1 in the first leg played in June last year.

Sierra Leone, who are in Group "F" alongside Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana, had their third and fourth rounds of qualifiers against the Black Stars scrapped following the suspension of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) by Fifa a fortnight ago.

The SLFA were suspended due to government interference in the country's football affairs after the country's anti-corruption commission moved to remove SLFA president Isha Johansen and secretary general Christopher Kamara from office.

According to Sierra Leone's laws, anybody holding public office and is facing corruption charges should resign to pave way for investigations.

In response, the SLFA wrote an appeal to Fifa asking the world football governing body to lift the suspension so that the country could play Ghana in last week's Afcon qualifiers.

This appeal however fell on deaf ears, as Fifa put their feet down and in fact cancelled the home and away matches between Sierra Leone and Ghana.

Kenya and Ethiopia have now played four games, while Sierra Leone and Ghana have played just two and are positioned in the last and second last places of Group "F" respectively.

Amidst all this, Caf has kept mum over the rankings in Group F, a situation that has invited severe confusion among the four teams with regards to who has qualified for the continental showpiece that is scheduled for next year in Cameroon.

"So far we haven't received any official communication, we are hoping that we can play our final two matches for a chance to the finals," said Ethiopia coach Abraham Mebratu after Sunday's loss to Kenya.

Daily Nation's quest to get a definitive statement from CAF hit a snag yesterday, but sources from the Caf headquarters in Cairo indicate that an Afcon committee meeting has been held and that "a communication will be issued soon".

This situation is similar to the Sudan issue last year where Sudanese Premier League clubs Al Hilal and Al Merreikh were disqualified from the Caf Champions League after the nation was suspended by Fifa for government interference.

The suspension was announced just as Al Hilal and Al Merreikh were due to participate in the last group matches.

As a consequence, matches involving Al Merreikh (who were due to face Etoile du Sahel in Tunisia) and Al Hilal (who were to host Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique) were both cancelled, with Etoile du Sahel and Ferroviario Beira progressing to the tournament's quarter-finals.

In a press conference on Saturday, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa said that two possible scenarios abound for Kenya.

Should Sierra Leone be eliminated from the Afcon qualifiers, Group F will remain with three teams whereby Kenya will be assured of at least finishing second in the group and automatic qualification.

But if the West African country complies with the regulations and are reinstated as Caf members, then their matches against Kenya and Ghana will be rescheduled to an ideal time.

For more Ghana football news visit www.ghanasoccernet.com

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