THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

An injury suffered with Morocco by a Charleroi ‘star’ has put FIFA in the dock in Belgium and, as John Chapman explains, it could hit international football hard

Mogi Bayat’s uncle, Abbas, used to be big in fizzy water. He bought Chaudfontaine, the company not just a bottle of the Belgian eau minérale, and later sold it on to Coca-Cola. He was Chaudfontaine’s CEO and somewhere along the way he purchased the Royal Sporting Football Club of Charleroi, known affectionately to their fans as “the Zebras”.

Uncle Abbas found running a football club to be heavy going. After acrimonious partings with several coaches, including Enzo Scifo who once cleverly combined playing for the club with the title of vice-president, Abbas sent for his nephew Mogi. The club did not know what hit it.

Despite two listings on the club website – as club manager and sporting manager – Mogi is not recognised as a Charleroi official by the Belgian FA. He was asked to leave when he went along to a hearing at FA headquarters. Mogi also got into an argument with ex-Charleroi coach Robert Waseige, Belgium’s answer to Sir Bobby Robson, saying he was the only trainer to be in charge for more than 600 top-flight matches and never win any honours. Mogi was spot on, but most observers didn’t appreciate him insulting a man more than twice his age.

The Iranian-French Mogi tends to go over the top. He loves to go into the crowd at home games and sign autographs. If Mogi is invited on to the weekly Belgian football chat show, you can be sure who will dominate proceedings. But his battle with Sepp Blatter is the one that will make or break him. Maybe he has his eye on the top job.

It all started back in November 2004. Moroccan midfielder Abdelmajid Oulmers was having a few good games for Charleroi and was called up by his national team for a friendly match with Burkina Faso. Mogi told Oulmers not to go – he would just get injured on the poor pitch in Morocco. Unfortunately for the player, Oulmers was pressured by his agent and he went off to Rabat.

On the day, it was not the pitch that laid him low, but rather Anderlecht’s giant central defender Lamine Traoré. The result was ruptured ligaments. Charleroi tried to get compensation from the Moroccan FA, but they hid behind FIFA’s rules that state that clubs must release players without any comeback in the case of injury. The stage was set for a legal case that has been dubbed “Bosman II”.

Press officer and lawyer Jean-Pierre Deprez is working free of charge for Charleroi. The publicity is good, though. So far he has welcomed reporters from as far away as Brazil to their humble ground.

All this time, the G-14 group was waiting in the wings. Along came Oulmers and Mogi Bayat, and they make a perfect test case. Jean-Louis Dupont, who represented Bosman back in 1995, now has the G-14 as a client.

This has all been getting too much for Blatter. FIFA wrote to the Belgian FA asking it to lean on Charleroi, but that was never going to happen. Mogi and Charleroi took FIFA to court and asked for just £60,000, a provisional amount, in compensation.

Blatter is worried: with the G‑14 in the opposing camp, a defeat could be expensive. Not that the G‑14 are expecting compensation each time a player is injured. What they really want is a percentage of the income from all major competitions. If they get that, it would change nothing for Charleroi.

The latter seem to be upping the stakes, too. Reports in the UK press say that Charleroi were very close to a Champions League qualification before Oulmers was injured. That’s news to everyone in Belgium. Maybe, for a couple of days last season, they were considered as outsiders for a UEFA Cup spot, but that was always odds-against for a team of journeymen professionals.

Where will it end? Mogi Bayat says he has confidence in Belgian justice. But Belgian justice grinds exceedingly slowly. The Charleroi tribunal court will hear the case in March 2006. If it finds in Charleroi’s favour, it will pass the case up to a national court. Meanwhile, Oulmers is back playing for Charleroi. He’s not playing too well, though. There’s a lot resting on him not being the player he was.

From WSC 226 December 2005. What was happening this month

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