Press release: football fans call upon the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to drop TotalEnergies as its sponsor for AFCON2023

Fossil Free Football and its allies call upon the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to drop TotalEnergies as its sponsor.

Saturday January 13, The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 tournament starts in Ivory Coast. This edition will, again, be sponsored by fossil fuel company TotalEnergies. The tournament was delayed due to heavy rains, made worse by the climate crisis.

AFCON 2023 represents a classic case of a major fossil fuel company using sports to protect its image. Around the world, people have been protesting TotalEnergies’ disastrous actions. For example, the StopEACOP campaign against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline is taking place from where the pipeline is being built – Uganda and Tanzania – to the place where the major financiers of fossil fuel expansion are located, London. Also in France, TotalEnergies’ home country, many people are protesting the company’s actions, and the company faces a legal challenge for its deadly business. When it sponsored the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, Greenpeace launched a campaign to protest this deal.

TotalEnergies tries to shield itself from criticism by associating itself with the most popular people on this planet: football players. But criticism against this deal is growing. For AFCON2023, a continent-wide campaign has been launched. The Kick Total Out of AFCON campaign is challenging TotalEnergies’ sponsorship of AFCON, accusing the oil company of sportswashing in an attempt to distract from its negative footprint on the continent. The campaign is convened by trailblazing creative and digital media organisation, Magamba Network (Zimbabwe) with an East Africa content hub run by Buni Media (Kenya), and West Africa work covered by Journal Rappé (Senegal). The campaign is being run in partnership with Greenpeace Africa and allies across the continent. Separately, prominent football historian David Goldblatt published this opinion piece to protest the deal.

TotalEnergies is actively expanding its fossil fuel businesswhile experts – such as the International Energy Agency – agree climate goals cannot be reached if new fossil fuel projects are started.
TotalEnergies is currently constructing the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) through Uganda and Tanzania. This project displaces communities, risks vital water sources and endangers wildlife. Because of the local and international criticism, more and more banks and insurance companies have decided not to financially support the project. Activists protesting EACOP are intimidated and arrested, as reported by Human Rights Watch.

Therefore, TotalEnergies urgently needs to boost its reputation. For this, it draws inspiration from Gazprom. Gazprom sponsored UEFA while it was actively pushing for the Nordstream and Southstream pipelines, in the face of powerful international opposition. Its association with European football was meant to influence key decision-makers.

Football around the world is impacted by the climate crisis, and many African countries are already experiencing the dramatic impact of the climate crisis. From deadly heat to extreme droughts and floods, fans, players and the pitches people play football on fall victim to an escalating climate crisis.
Football needs to protect itself against the climate crisis, and a necessary first step is to stop selling its platform to big polluters like TotalEnergies. The best way to ensure football will no longer associate itself with big polluters is a comprehensive fossil ad ban, following the same logic as tobacco ad bans.


Thandile Chinyavanhu, Greenpeace Africa Oil and Gas Campaigner, said:
“We have experienced how sports like football and rugby have unified people across the globe. South Africa’s victory at the 1995 Rugby World Cup played a significant role in unifying a nation marred by discrimination. AFCON continues to play a pivotal role in integrating a fragmented continent. Sport can be a transformative driver of change; Total understands this, and has exploited this to sanitise their image. Total’s destructive business model is driving ecological and economic decline at the expense of people. If Total truly loved football they would not continue a business model that destroys the livelihoods of the people they claim to empower. There is a growing movement of people across the continent who envision a sustainable energy future for all Africans rooted in justice. These activists are brought together for the love of the game, for the love of this continent and its people.”

Samm Farai Monro, Kick Polluters Out co-founder & Magamba creative director, said:  “TotalEnergies is guilty of foul play. They like to portray a clean, green image of themselves with their sponsorship of AFCON. But the reality is very different. At a time when scientists are telling us to stop any new fossil fuels projects, Total is developing more oil and gas resources in Africa than any other company. For example, their EACOP pipeline in East Africa will involve the release of global heating gases more than 25 times the current annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined. How can Total say they are aiming to be net zero when they are setting our continent on fire? It’s time to show Total Energies the red card. Because there can be no football on a dead continent.”

Football fan and popular Senegalese rapper, Xuman, a member of the Kick Polluters Out movement, said:
“The Kick Total Out Of AFCON campaign is crucial for highlighting corporate environmental responsibilities in the context of African football. It brings attention to the environmental impacts of big companies like TotalEnergies, emphasising the need for sustainable practices in a continent rich in natural beauty and biodiversity. This campaign is a movement that combines the passion for football with the urgency of protecting Africa’s environment, ensuring that the love for the game is aligned with preserving the continent’s natural resources for future generations.”

Frank Huisingh, founder and coordinator of Fossil Free Football, said:
“We’ve seen it all before. Gazprom used its UEFA sponsorship deal to improve its reputation while pushing for new problematic pipelines to be built. TotalEnergies uses the same playbook, pushing through the highly destructive East African Crude Oil Pipeline.
As a Dutch football fan, I love total football. But I don’t want TotalEnergies to be anywhere close to football. Football should take a stand and kick out big polluters like TotalEnergies. From UEFA to FIFA and CAF.”

Freddie Daley, coordinator of the Cool Down Sport for Climate Action Network, and a campaigner at Badvertising, said:
“African football, and the hundreds of millions of fans that follow it across the continent, are directly threatened by the impacts of climate change. If TotalEnergies’ production plans go ahead, and wealthy nations fail to step up on climate action, Africa faces a future in which football cannot be played. Allowing a company that threatens the future of the game in Africa to use AFCON as an opportunity to improve its image and greenlight further extraction is unforgivable.”