African football annoyed by FIFA interference

From left to right: Ashraf Sobhi, Egyptian Minister of Sports, Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, and Ahmad Ahmad, CAF President, during the African Cup of Nations final in Cairo, July 19, 2019.

In just one month, on March 12, African football will know the name of its new boss at the end of a series of twists in which the International Football Federation (FIFA) has continued to play the leading roles. And this influence could be confirmed until the end of the process, since it will still be for FIFA to decide on the eligibility of Ahmad Ahmad, the current president of the African Football Confederation (CAF ).

The Malagasy has something to worry about. Elected in 2017, he was suspended in November for five years by the FIFA ethics committee for abuse of power and embezzlement. Restored at the end of January in his functions by a decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which authorized him to campaign, Mr. Ahmad finally suffered a new setback: on February 6, the executive committee of CAF asked FIFA to decide his fate. His only hope of seeing himself back in the saddle is now to be found on the side of the CAS, which is supposed to render a judgment on his suspension from March 2.

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History speaks volumes about the involvement of the international football body in the affairs of African football. Apart from the case of Mr. Ahmad, FIFA does not officially support any of the four candidates – the Ivorian Jacques Anouma, the Senegalese Augustin Senghor, the Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya and the South African Patrice Motsepe – whose files have been validated. But according to corroborating sources, its president, Gianni Infantino, particularly appreciates the last two. To the point, some argue, to seek to promote them.

“We must expect maneuvers”

With Motsepe or Yahya at the head of CAF, FIFA would undoubtedly exercise a stronger hold. Especially if it is Motsepe, who is a very wealthy businessman, president of a club, Mamelodi Sundows FC. Because of his business, he could not devote 100% of his time to the instance, which would favor the influence of Infantino. Anouma and Senghor, who have much more experience, would not give up, underlines a leader of a West African federation. We have the feeling that FIFA is trying to control CAF. She would not allow herself to do so with UEFA. It’s almost unhealthy. Maneuvers, such as trying to steer votes through promises of grants for development programs, are to be expected. “

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Thus, the entryism of FIFA annoys more than one on the continent. It must be said that the members of certain federations have kept in their throats the words of Mr. Infantino, who, in January 2020 in Rabat, openly declared himself in favor of a final phase of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) every four years, instead of the current two. The attitude of Italo-Switzerland was also offended when he openly showed his preference, in 2018, for the joint candidacy of the United States, Canada and Mexico against that of Morocco for the organization of the Cup. of the world 2026.

The dissensions were expressed openly when FIFA sent its general secretary, the Senegalese Fatma Samoura, for an audit at CAF headquarters in Cairo, from August 2019 to January 2020. At the end of these six months, the confederation did not. had not seen fit to extend the mission, a decision which had aroused the anger of Mr. Infantino.

“FIFA needs a strong CAF”

Augustin Senghor is fully aware of the tensions between the two bodies. “They may not get along, but they are doomed to work together. FIFA needs a strong CAF ”, insists the president of the Senegalese Football Federation, suggesting that he would not allow his choices to be imposed if he were elected on March 12: “There have been misunderstandings lately, on decisions taken on both sides, and the new president of CAF will have to seek to restore this relationship of trust.

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Four years ago, in Addis Ababa, Mr. Infantino and Samoura had given their support to Mr. Ahmad, then a candidate against Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, who had headed CAF since 1988. FIFA internal justice, after receiving several documents sent by leaders of African federations, had also opened an investigation to try to determine with precision the role played by Mr. Infantino in the rise to power of the Malagasy.

A former CAF member, known to be close to Mr. Hayatou, remembers the context surrounding the election: Infantino promised to the federations which would vote for Ahmad to quickly pay the financial aid of FIFA for the realization of such or such project. He absolutely wanted to beat Hayatou, who had voted for Bahraini Salman Al Khalifa in the election for the presidency of FIFA. The story could well stutter …


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