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Tunisian football crisis deepens as FIFA bars nine Ligue 1 clubs from recruitment

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Tunisian football faces a severe crisis as FIFA imposes a ban on recruitment for nine Ligue 1 clubs, effective from June 17, 2024, due to unresolved financial disputes with former players and coaches.

Clubs such as Club Africain, Etoile Sportive du Sahel, and Olympique de Béja are among those affected, each embroiled in multiple disputes over unpaid wages and compensation.

The ongoing financial turmoil has plagued Tunisian football for years, drawing scrutiny from FIFA since 2017 without significant improvement.

The latest FIFA directive highlights the dire financial mismanagement within Tunisian clubs, exacerbated by their inability to meet financial obligations to former personnel.

The Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) had urged these clubs to resolve their disputes by March 31, 2024, particularly those intending to participate in continental competitions next season.

However, many clubs failed to comply, resulting in FIFA’s stringent recruitment ban.

Acknowledging the widespread financial distress, the FTF successfully petitioned the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for a one-year postponement in enforcing new licensing regulations for local competitions.

This delay recognizes the clubs’ severe financial constraints, with the exception of Espérance Sportive de Tunis, renowned for its financial stability under the stewardship of president Hamdi Meddeb.

Financial records reveal staggering salary discrepancies within Tunisian clubs, with Espérance Sportive de Tunis reportedly able to sustain salaries such as Yassine Meriah’s approximately 100 thousand dinars and Moez Ben Chérifia’s 70 thousand dinars.

In contrast, other clubs, now banned from recruitment, struggle to meet similar financial commitments, exacerbating their financial woes.

For instance, Etoile Sportive du Sahel’s recent mandate to pay $700,000 to former player Souleymane Coulibaly underscores the financial imprudence that has brought these clubs to the brink.

The overextension in player acquisitions and operational expenses has led to unsustainable debt levels, leaving clubs mired in financial instability.

As the Tunisian football landscape grapples with these challenges, the future remains uncertain for affected clubs and their stakeholders.

The inability to recruit new talent threatens their competitive edge and could further diminish their standing in both domestic and international arenas.

Efforts to reconcile debts and stabilize financial operations will be crucial in determining the viability and sustainability of Tunisian football clubs moving forward.

The repercussions of FIFA’s recruitment ban underscore a critical juncture for Tunisian football, requiring decisive action and structural reforms to salvage its integrity and financial viability amidst a tumultuous period.

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