KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Some of Africa’s football bosses will be the naughty schoolkids when they dress up for FIFA’s annual prizegiving next week in Paris: squabbling among themselves while collecting suspensions and expulsions almost like badges of honour.
The Confederation Africaine de Football is the largest region in the world federation’s college but the face it presents to the international game at congress is not a happy one.
Two years ago Ahmad Ahmad from Madagascar staged a coup against long-serving president Issa Hayatou. He took by surprise not only the Cameroonian but much of CAF’s Cairo-centric establishment. Ahmad’s prize was not only the CAF leadership but a FIFA vice-presidency.
Not everyone in regionally-divided Africa was happy with that.
Ahmad’s enemies have accused him of enacting a self-serving agenda; he has rejected such talk as a deliberate attempt to undermine him.
The most serious assault was despatched to the FIFA ethics committee by the then CAF secretary-general Amr Fahmy, third member of his family to hold that pivotal role. Fahmy was swiftly sacked by Ahmad while the ethics committee continues to ponder the allegations.
Ahmad has denied any wrongdoing and is expecting ethics prosecutor Maria Claudia Rojas – maybe even before congress on Thursday – to rule the complaints out of court.
His allies have leaped to his support though it says everything about the multi-layered complexity of African football politics that even they have been reluctant to go on record.
Fahmy’s complaints against Ahmad focused on sexual harassment of CAF staff, $400,000 worth of new cars to serve CAF and his satellite office in Madagascar, the financing of a pilgrimage visit to Saudi Arabia, an increase in personal allowances for FA presidents and the circuitous contracting of a Nations Cup kit supplier costing an debatably unnecessary $830,000.
Ahmad’s supporters have dismissed the harassment accusation as “totally false, malicious and defamatory” and claim that not one complaint had been registered formally with CAF itself.
As for the cars, another supporter said: “CAF did purchase a small number of cars in 2017, this was to assist with day to day operations, and several of these cars are used in CAF’s satellite office in Madagascar.
“They belong to CAF so they can be sold at any time for CAF to recoup a good proportion of the cost. The exco agreed that it was a much more sensible option to purchase these cars.”
The ‘sensible option’ theme is also being applied to last year’s visit by 15 African federation presidents to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. CAF footed the bill after Ahmad judged it would be impolitic to turn down a specific invitation from the Union of Arab Football Associations.
The issue of the Adidas contract and increased allowances are more complex.
Firstly, Ahmad’s circle insists that the French retailer Tactical Steel was a valuable ‘middle man’ in sealing a multi-event partnership. They suggest Fahmy was upset because he had been pursuing a less-lucrative deal with Puma.
Personal allowances, however, are a minefield, particularly in the post-Sepp Blatter era within the international game.
In May 2017 the CAF exco agreed to pay $100,000 – since doubled to $200,000 – to each FA for development. This was of course, for years a convenient cover through which a string of senior officials throughout the world game siphoned off funds into their own accounts.
FA bosses in Ghana and South Sudan have been banned from football in the past year on corruption charges.
Ahmad’s coterie say that it was the exco which agreed to make $20,000 available to FA presidents as a personal allowance payment and that to was Fahmy to process the payments appropriately.
What is conceded is that “a very small number of presidents requested that they receive allowance payment into personal accounts.”