Suspending the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), even before the end of his term, is the result of the many scandals he was haunted by.Although he did not seem to fear anything at first, Ahmad Ahmad was overtaken by accusations of corruption and embezzlement. Internally and externally, whistleblowers were no longer hiding by continuing to denounce the Malagasy national’s mode of governance. Among many other observers since October, they saw the decision coming from the independent FIFA Ethics Commission. Taken on November 23, it sounds like a deathblow to the successor of the all-powerful Issa Hayatou.
Many leaders saw Ahmad as the man of renewal who could turn the African body around. He could boast of some major reforms in the organization of competitions, such as the passage of the African Cup of Nations to 24 teams since 2019 and the setting up of an African Women’s League. To his credit also, an honorable financial record and good management of the consequences of the Covid-19.
But behind this picture lie some gray areas. Because the four years spent by the former Madagascan Secretary of State for Sports at the head of CAF have not been a long quiet river. His management style has often been singled out by certain leaders like Manuel Nascimento Lopes, the president of Guinea-Bissau’s Football Association. “I have nothing against Ahmad, but it’s his management of CAF that I’m having trouble with. He monopolizes things. People know it but they dare not talk about it. Even when he makes mistakes, they applaud him,” he protested.
Pape Diouf had already raised the red flag…
Before him, the late Senegalese president of Olympique de Marseille (France), Pape Diouf, stood out from Ahmad. In a column published in Le Monde on January 17, 2020, he pleaded for “the arrival of a strong man at the head of the Confederation of African Football.” He called CAF’s decision to withdraw AfCON 2019 from Cameroon in favor of Egypt a “hoax.”
Behind the scenes, the organization proceeds with the spectacular dismissal of its Secretary General, Amr Fahmy two months before AfCON 2019 in the land of the Pharaohs. The latter who died of cancer in February, had sent a letter to FIFA in which he accused the African football boss of “sexual harassment” and “corruption.”
In July 2019, the BBC shed some light on it, involving the former Malagasy politician in another financial case. The British media reveals that, contrary to his promise made on his arrival in 2017 not to receive a salary, the ousted president of CAF had indeed received $40,000 a month, which corresponds to $480,000 per year, without counting the annual premium of $80,000.
After two years in office, Ahmad asked FIFA for an “audit” of CAF. A decision that created a stir within the Executive Committee itself, which saw it as a placing under the supervision of the world institution, of which he was nevertheless one of the vice-presidents.
“Ahmad Ahmad, we saw his limits, his incompetence. After two years of mandate, here is that, by his incompetence, his ignorance of the texts, he brings today the FIFA to put his nose in the affairs of the CAF, which becomes neo-colonized,” still lamented Pope Diouf, died last March of the Covid-19.
The abandonment of FIFA
Gianni Infantino, who was very much involved in the election of Ahmad, had warned CAF in a letter with a rather threatening tone in July 2019. “Given the current circumstances, the FIFA administration has already recommended that a central audit be carried out on all advanced FIFA funds allocated to CAF in order to ensure that the funds have been, and are, used correctly and that there is no evidence of embezzlement or mismanagement.”
Six months later, the General Delegate for Africa, Fatma Samoura Ndiaye, who had taken up her quarters in Cairo (Egypt) to get the feel of the files, was asked to return to Zurich, Switzerland following a decision by the Executive Committee of CAF not to prolong the experience. A decision that would not be to the liking of Infantino, who is therefore accused by those close to Ahmad of having torpedoed the candidacy of the one he greatly supported to debunk Hayatou.
After getting out of the woods in his hearing in France in June 2019, qualifying as “false, malicious and defamatory,” the accusations of “corruption” and “breach of trust,” to which he is the subject, the president of CAF has not escaped the grievances of FIFA. This body accuses him of having “violated the Code of Ethics” the day before his candidacy was formalized on October 29.
Ironically, it is the boss of the African football who called on the all-powerful FIFA to clear his conscience. Ahmad certainly, did not imagine his defenestration a few months later by one of his organs.
This has become a soap opera whose extension will be played at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS). All in all, this case plunges the African football body into a whirlwind.