And so, it came to pass as we had predicted, that the tenure of the so-called Special Delegate for Africa in the form of FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, ended yesterday after the CAF Executive committee (Exco) in a rare display of backbone, voted not to extend her tenure.
A second tenure was always going to be a political hot-potato for the Malagasy CAF President Ahmad Ahmad especially since the reforms that Samoura carried in her handbag to the continent on the 1st of August 2019 were messy and Africa was just not ready for such.
For instance, she implemented a no-cash policy for the CAF offices and events, which had previously been cash-heavy in order to make payments in the form of allowances and travel subsidies.
At the CAF footballer of the Year awards last month, attendees who had previously normally been paid a standard allowance in cash were shocked to be informed that these monies would be wired to their respective bank accounts after the event.
FA Presidents, media experts, staff and hangers-on were completely in shock at this turn of events, having become accustomed to receiving cash in dollars which they would then use to treat themselves in whichever city was hosting the event.
One of the more senior media experts, the formidable Ivorian Mamadou Gaye in September 2018 told an anecdotal story during his famous radio interview with celebrated South African Robert Marawa, about how cash is mishandled by CAF.
The story goes, that after the infamous Extraordinary General Meeting of CAF in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm Al Sheikh where he was treated like a pariah on the orders of CAF President Ahmad, he happened to bump into part of the CAF delegation at the airport in Cairo, also departing for their various destinations.
However, his attention was drawn to a ruckus at the security desk where one member of the delegation, the Central Africa Republic (CAR) FA President Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona was in a heated argument with Egyptian authorities.
Apparently, he had been discovered with almost $90,000 in cash inside his hand luggage and for which he was at pains to explain away. Ngaissona was eventually led away while some of his fellow FA Presidents made frantic calls to then Egypt FA President Hany Abo Rida to intervene.
That is the level of cash float operated by CAF at any one time, extrapolated to more than 100 people.
The attempt to manage the cash situation at CAF has been cited as the main reason why the CAF Exco developed an allergy for Samoura and decided that a 2nd 6-month extension to her tenure was not on the cards.
Vehemently opposing this renewal during the heated CAF ExCo meeting in Rabat were Ahmad’s former fishing business partner, President of Mauritius FA Samir Sobha and the little known Sita Sangare from Burkina Faso who led the bandwagon of dissenting voices, who looked FIFA President Gianni Infantino straight in the eye and told him to his face that Fatma Samoura must go.
What is Gianni going to do anyway, ban all of them in one fell swoop? If you push a coward without relenting, you will end up seeing their bravery, a lesson that Gianni Infantino has now come to painfully learn.
Infantino was reportedly so mad, that he left for the airport and said no one needs to escort him, leaving Morocco in a huff. Being engrossed in his warped sense of superiority complex with flashes of white supremacy, he could not believe that a bunch of Africans had defied him.
Moreover, Samoura reportedly told close aides that a decision not to extend her tenure would likely get Ahmad suspended by the FIFA Ethics committee over the myriad serious infractions and crimes reported to them by individuals and Government agencies.
Most serious are the claims of fraud, theft and money-laundering that got Ahmad arrested last June in Paris by officers of the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption and Financial Fiscal Offences.
Most nauseating however, were the complaints of sexual harassment and assault against CAF female employees, and which FIFA and its joke of an Ethics committee, has systematically attempted to cover-up from investigation and adjudication.
The statements released by both FIFA on their official website and CAF speak volumes. Both identically don’t name CAF President Ahmad Ahmad anywhere, this being the most obvious signal that Ahmad’s days at the helm of CAF are numbered.
The dust had not even settled on the departure back to Zurich for Samoura than Ahmad began to flex his muscle by reconstituting the Referees committee. Everywhere else in the World, referees are a wonderful addition to the game, giving it credibility and fairness.
In Africa, the referees committee is the most powerful working committee, any CAF President who does not control the allocation of match officials is impotent.
Sadly, the allocation of match officials during the crucial qualifiers is done on the basis of friendship or the greasing of hands, which makes it a potent political tool.
Cleverly, Ahmad has reconvened the committee by placing at its head Celestin Ntangungira of Rwanda, a FIFA Referees instructor and former FA President of FERWAFA.
In so doing, he has maintained the leadership of the Referees committee within the CECAFA zonal union, with the replacement of Djibouti FA President Souleiman Waberi who was a key pointman.
So traumatic was this removal from the head of CAF referees that Waberi has since turned into a religious philosopher, placing his fate in the hands of God as shown by his latest WhatsApp profile picture.
Meanwhile during a meeting of the world’s top journalists at the AIPS conference in Budapest, Hungary Gianni Infantino was the keynote speaker where he answered a question raised by South African journalist Mark Gleeson concerning Ahmad’s continued stay in office.
In his wordy response, Gianni denied meddling in the Ethics investigation and instead passed the buck to Chairman Skouris Vasilios (Greece) whilst conveniently leaving out the name of his co-chairlady Claudia Maria Rojas (Super Amiga) previously linked sexually linked to him. He has been under pressure to distance himself from her, especially after the Council of Europe publicly questioned her capacity to deliver in the position, citing her non-fluency in English amongst other weaknesses.
More contradiction emerged from his statements at the AIPS conference whereby he claimed that he will enforce a zero tolerance policy on corruption. While claiming that the Ethics Chamber is independent, Gianni Infantino contradicted himself further by saying that Africa is corrupt and that he won’t have any mercy for corrupt leaders. This clearly indicates that he is the one making the decision at the Ethics Chamber while publicly claiming that they’re independent bodies.
South African journalist Mark Gleeson putting FIFA President Gianni Infantino to task over CAF President Ahmad Ahmad’s continued stay in office.
To further entrench his interest in continuing in the role of CAF President post-2021 elective congress, Ahmad has brought back his close friend and aide Loic Gerand, whom he had been forced to axe at the time of arrival of Fatma Samoura last August.
Loic was the key man behind the Tactical steel heist owing to his close ties from their days in the French Foreign legion with its owner Romuald Seiller and his wife Sabine.
Loic has another talent too that Ahmad sorely lacks, he has an engaging personality and he is therefore very useful in reaching out to various camps and people on Ahmad behalf.
FA Presidents concede that anytime they wanted their matters expedited, Loic was the man to approach and “voila!” Indeed Loic has already hit the ground running, and is executing the work of consensus building by reaching out to Ahmad’s already known adversaries.
But does Infantino really want another term of the disaster that has been Ahmad Ahmad?
Clearly all indications are to the contrary if you follow closely his comments and body language in the last couple of months.
As late as last week, Infantino sought to make a clean break with CAF and its management of African affairs.
For instance, he has proposed the setting up of an elite set of 20 referees who will be trained, maintained and funded by FIFA to officiate all the critical qualifiers and continental competitions without the involvement of CAF.
It is this proposal that Ahmad now hopes to blow up with his own selection of referee’s representatives from each of the zonal unions.
Infantino has also proposed a $1Billion fund for the construction of first class facilities in each of the 54 FAs, a fund that will be managed and executed by FIFA, as far away as possible from CAF and its shambolic Executive committee.
Another proposal is the creation of an African Champions League of 20 – 24 teams who would each have to fork out $20 million annually for the first 5 years for the privilege of competing.
This is the reincarnation of the misguided attempt by Infantino to coerce European clubs into a similar tournament which was rumored to have been fronted by Saudi Arabian money through Japanese bank SoftBank.
Which African clubs can raise $20 million annually to participate in this competition? Well, your guess is as good as ours!
However, the one proposal that has the African FAs riled up really is one where FIFA wishes to reduce the powers of the CAF Exco and to allow for an independent secretariat to run the affairs of CAF without the day-to-day interference of these politicians.
The Ahmad era saw a move where the 23 CAF Exco members awarded themselves hefty allowances and retirement packages for serving at least one term of office.
At the CAF Exco in Paris, we saw just how dangerous it is to allow politicians to get involved in the actual running of football when these group of inexperienced people met and agreed to alter the outcome of the CAF Champions League final between Esperance of Tunisia and Wydad de Casablanca of Morocco by ordering the match to be replayed at a neutral venue.
The decision was made on the basis of a Match commissioner’s report that was tabled directly to the CAF Exco because the Match commissioner in question was none other than Mauritania FA President and CAF Exco member, Ahmed Yahya.
The obvious question being, why would the Match commissioners report be completely at odds with the one by the centre referee? Were these two people officiating two separate matches?
In any event, in what later came to be viewed as the quintessential “being put in their place”, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruled that the CAF Exco did not have the powers to alter the outcome of the match, instead sending the matter to the relevant CAF organ for disciplinary action.
This is just one of the examples for the egregious abuse of power at CAF by its Exco that the PwC audit appears to have unearthed, and which FIFA now wishes to curtail by means of a raft of 100 recommendations.
Surely, for someone with the street smarts of Ahmad, it must be clear as day that the end of his tenure in CAF is at hand, isn’t it? Yes, he probably imagines that he has won a victory by ensuring that Samoura leaves Africa but that victory is pyrrhic at best.
Even within CAF, the inevitable departure of Ahmad is anticipated, to the point where it is now generally accepted that he may probably not see out the rest of his term of office.
The “Muslim brotherhood” of CAF led by Morocco FA President Fouzi Lekjaa and Tunisia FA President Wadii Jarii has therefore hatched a post-Ahmad plan where they have proposed a mini-reshuffle in the CAF Exco to replace 1st Vice-President Constant Omari with the youngish Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania in anticipation of Ahmad’s ejection.
This is the same Ahmed Yahya who was the match commissioner in that infamous CAF Champions League final last year in Tunis, go figure!
Ahmad’s highly anticipated departure would elevate Yahya to the CAF Presidency in a caretaker capacity, where he, in turn, would organize the 2021 elective congress while having his hand on the remainder of the CAF funds.
Remember, the CAF congresses are now a veritable market for votes and the person likely to be voted will have to be able to purchase the FA Presidents ourightly.
At the elective congress, the real puppeteer, Morocco FA President Fouzi Lekjaa, would show his face and gun for the Presidency himself, having inherited the electoral infrastructure built by Ahmad.
The main question is though, who does Infantino want in that seat come 2021?
As things stand now, despite some sabre-rattling here and there about CAF Exco independence, African FA Presidents have zero political clout to ever vote against Infantino, as he wields the Ethics committee over their heads like the sword of Damocles.
Only a select few can claim to have handled FIFA funds with utmost probity and free of audit query for the cycle 2016 – 2020.
CAF Exco members are in even deeper funk because the audit carried out by Samoura through the Swiss-based office of big-5 audit firm PwC has enough firepower to bury each of them individually forever.
It is the findings of this audit report that have shocked Infantino to the core and he still hasn’t wrapped his mind around the incontrovertible evidence of theft and looting of CAF funds.
Many will remember the decision to call off their joint presser in Egypt last month, between Infantino and Ahmad, as signal for the frosty relationship between these two former allies.
If rumor is to be believed, Ahmad and CAF finance committee chairman Fouzi Lekjaa have overseen the disappearance of more than $30 million from the CAF reserves in just under 3 years.
Could this also be the reason for the return of Loic Gerand at CAF to help Ahmad with one last bite at the cherry before the inevitable chop by FIFA?