Only in African football do political and other intrigues could manage to eclipse the on-field exploits at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which was staged in Egypt, in what is clearly a precedent setting series of firsts for the African game.
AFCON 2019 became the first such competition to have 24 qualifying teams contesting the mantle of “Champions of Africa” in a month-long feast of football action that eventually saw the “Desert Foxes” of Algeria trump Senegal in a pulsating final played in the Egyptian Capital, Cairo
Africa’s football governing body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had probably hoped that the excitement of this football bonanza would be enough to sanitize the bad publicity surrounding its top official, CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.
On June 6th, 2019 on the sidelines of the FIFA Congress in Paris where its President Gianni Infantino was re-elected unopposed, CAF President Ahmad Ahmad was silently picked up by officers of the French police of the Central Office for the Fight against corruption and Financial & Fiscal crimes (OCLCIFF) and placed under arrest.
The inquiries by the OCLCIFF officers centred around financial transactions with CAF funds, and a shadowy company by the name TACTICAL STEEL which was dubiously engaged to provide equipment to CAF at prices almost 200% above the market rate.
CAF media division would subsequently actively attempt to drive the fallacy that Ahmad was released the same evening “without charge” to indicate that OCLCIFF had absolved him of the money-laundering and outright theft accusations facing him.
For those in the know as to how the criminal procedures in that country work, will attest to the fact that these initial procedures of statement taking are akin to the opening skirmishes at the start of a long and bloody war.
However, since misfortune walks in pairs, President Ahmad had, a few months earlier, been reported to the FIFA Ethics Committee of serious breaches of Ethics and gross misconduct by the erstwhile CEO of CAF, Amr Fahmy.
The dossier presented to FIFA included documentary evidence of financial impropriety and outright theft, bribery and even more sinisterly, the sexual harassment of employees and outside contractors.
A public relation consultant from Mali, Mariam Diakite, 34, told The New York Times that she was fired by Ahmad for rejecting his advances. She also made a formal report to police in England shortly thereafter, before being directed to FIFA due to jurisdictional issues.
At FIFA, Gianni Infantino really wanted to shield his political ally from CAF from these accusations, and actually actively sought to have the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee dither with its mandate and delay making any pronouncements on the matter.
With the arrest in Paris and the ensuing media feeding-frenzy, Infantino could no longer shield Ahmad effectively and within a few short hours, FIFA fired off a statement acknowledging that it had received the complaints dossier against Ahmad and that the Ethics committee had (just) began to work on it.
The FIFA Ethics committeeis itself not free of scandal, as its top Vice President – Dr Sundra Rajoo – who was arrested for corruption last November in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia upon arrival from Zurich for one of the Ethics committee meetings.
Two days before the arrest, on 4th June 2019 the Executive Committee of CAF had met in Paris to discuss the abortive CAF Champions League final between Esperance de Tunis and Wydad Casablanca (WAC)of Morocco.
The match was abandoned by Wydad Casablanca after their equalizer was disallowed and VAR technology was unavailable to verify the claim. The players, technical bench of WAC walked off the field in a huff, when even intervention from CAF President Ahmad failed to resolve the impasse.
This left the match centre referee no option but to call off the match and automatically awarded it to Esperance, who dutifully lined up to receive individual medals and the Champions League Trophy.
The whole World was therefore certain that sanity would prevail when the CAF Exco included this matter in its agenda at the behest of Morocco FA President and CAF “3rd Vice President” Fouzi Lekjaa, and the rules would be applied in normal form.
To their horror, CAF announced that its Exco had ordered for a replay of this final at a neutral venue, after the conclusion of the imminent AFCON which was due to end on 19th July 2019.
President Ahmad cleverly chimed in that “the playing and security conditions were not met during the 2nd leg of the CAF Champions League final, preventing the match from reaching its conclusion”
This despite his presence at the venue, and all protocols working properly until the 60th minute when the WAC players walked off the field. The match appears to have concluded well insofar as the rules, with the winning team being awarded medals and the Trophy.
Currently, both WAC and Esperance have forwarded their matter to the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) in Switzerland, opting to bypass the CAF bodies of first instance, obviously because both can attest to their incompetence and duplicity.
This will however not be the last time that a member or official of African football will file formal request for arbitration at CAS against CAF, a clear sign that the latter body has lost governance credibility and its institutions have lost the confidence of its subjects.
The catastrophic happenings in CAF have not been without insider resistance, moreso in the Governing CAF Exco where some of its members have viewed the accusations and arrest against CAF President Ahmad as having a huge negative effect in terms of perception due to the massive airplay the stories have had on global media.
CAF Media marketing agency Lagadere Sport and Entertainment has been quoted elsewhere warning of the “reputational damage” caused by the CAF leadership shenanigans that are troubling the executives of the global firms that have invested in CAF commercial properties.
CAF competitions continue to trail those of other Confederations in all performance indices, including television viewership, stadium attendance and social media following.
Compound this with self-inflicted mortal wounds like the incomplete Champions League final and the arrest of the CAF President for financial impropriety and you will begin to get the sense that some of the partners are very jittery.
However, FIFA saw the silver lining in these series of unfortunate events at CAF, with its President Gianni Infantino cleverly seeing an opportunity to entrench himself as the quintessential puppeteer for Africa and its 54 votes at the FIFA Congress.
This possibility was brought to light by CAF EXCO member and former Liberia FA President Musa Hassan Bility in a hard-hitting statement circulated to all media on Wednesday 24th July 2019.
Musa Hassan Bility has been consistent in his criticism of the shambolic running of the affairs of CAF, especially since he discovered that a whopping $200,000 meant for the Liberia FA from CAF had been secretly spirited away into bank accounts of a Polish Art Gallery.
His attempts to persuade CAF President Ahmad to investigate the matter appeared to draw his ire more than concern, before ultimately a complaint to FIFA triggered an internal investigation in CAF, where the culprits were identified before the matter was allowed to go cold, with zero action taken aginst the known perpetrators of the theft.
Since then, Musa Bility has been a marked man, moreso because he has continued to vociferously challenge some of the ridiculous decisions and actions of the CAF high command, who (like kids in a candy store) have found themselves flush with CAF funds and surpluses, and proceeded to gorge themselves with reckless abandon.
To illustrate the level of impunity at CAF, the high command looted coffers with such temerity that it would have caused a mini-riot to publish the accounts for the financial cycle 2017 – 2018. Remember also, that Ahmad took over the reins of CAF from Issa Hayatou in March 2017. So for the first time in the history of CAF, no books of accounts were audited or published for presentation at the CAF General Assembly in 2018.
The accounts for the cycles 2017 -2018 and 2018-2019 were arrogantly lumped together and presented to the CAF General Assembly in the form of a Powerpoint Presentation last week in Cairo, in the presence of FIFA President Gianni Infantino whose very presence gave this aberration to common sense a veneer of credibility.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino loves tainted football officials, simply because it gives him immense leverage to use his dumbed-down Ethics committee to wield the big stick – a FIFA ban from ALL football activity – for any length of time.
In CAF President Ahmad, Infantino had hit the jackpot.
At the Ethics committee, Ahmad Ahmad already has investigations dating back to the Mohammed Bin Hamman investigation, where this former President of the Asian Confederation had been indicted for bribery of CAF FA Presidents, many of whom(including Bin Hamman) have gone on to be sanctioned by the Ethics committee.
CAF President Ahmad features greatly in this Bin Hamman dossier, where he is featured alongside a female companion travelling to Kuala Lumpur on invitation by Bin Hamman with healthy per diems to each plus spa treatments for the spouses and female companions of the FA Presidents.
Apparently, Gianni Infantino has pressurized his Ethics committee to set aside the file on CAF President Ahmad in the meantime, until he has served his purpose.
Now the file has been joined by a new one with new and earth-shattering allegations about his criminal activities as the President of CAF, which we understand has also been kept in abeyance, for future reference.
Infantino has apparently offered Ahmad a soft landing from all his troubles. In exchange for suppressing the FIFA Ethics committee investigation and adjudication, Ahmad must deliver CAF and all its votes (as a block) to Infantino for deployment as he wishes.
The first step was to get the CAF General Assembly and EXCO to hurriedly adopt a resolution that would see FIFA Secretary- General (CEO) be seconded to CAF as a “General Delegate” for a renewable tenure of 6-months.
Officially, her brief would be to instil proper Governance and financial systems in CAF but unofficially, it is known that she would be laying the groundwork for a hostile takeover of CAF affairs.
You may wonder (as we all do) why any sane human being would work feverishly to undermine their own leadership capacity of an organization to which he has been elected to lead, by accepting the takeover of the organization by a foreign organization, to which the former is not even a member?
CAF President, unable to muster his weaknesses for money, flash and sex has dug himself a nice little hole from which he can only escape by resigning. However, like every African despot we have encountered on the continent, he firmly believes that there will be better days ahead, and that the devil with whom he shakes hands (Infantino) is actually a legitimate friend and confidante… what a bozo!
Enter Musa Hassan Bility – the only man in CAF willing to back his words with decisive action. Out-gunned and out-numbered by the sheer collective stupidity in the CAF General Assembly, he has opted to take the fight to legal halls of CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland.
And so, on Tuesday 23rd July 2019 Musa Bility filed for arbitration at CAS, seeking to nullify the decision to bring Fatma Samoura (or anyone else from FIFA for that matter) to CAF for the simple reason that CAF has its own mechanisms, built into its statutes to resolve such problems.
In fact, the CAF EXCO had earlier in the year ordered a proper systems and financial audit to be carried out on the organization over the previous 2(two) financial cycles, only for CAF President Ahmad and the Chairman of the Finance committee (Moroccan Fouzi Lekjaa) to dither with the resolution.
Caught off-guard by the filing of the arbitration at CAS, Infantino and Ahmad (as testament to their desperation) compelled the FIFA Ethics committee to quickly adjudicate, backdate and release a ruling on a trumped-up set of charges relating to Musa Bility’s tenure as Liberia FA President.
These charges appear to crop up around the same time that Musa Bility started to make noise in CAF about the disappearance of $200,000 meant for the Liberia FA into a polish bank account.
However, in its ruling against Bility, the FIFA Ethics committee found him culpable in the loss of money in the Liberia FA, and banned him from all football activity for a period of 10 years plus a hefty fine of CHF 500,000.
Bility in his statement to media postulates that the expedited adjudication by the Ethics committee was triggered by his opposition to the hostile takeover of CAF by FIFA, which seems to have particularly incensed Gianni Infantino considering that other African FAs went along with the idea (by acclamation) with little prodding.
Infantino probably asked himself, “who the hell is this guy from an insignificant footballing country, who would try to impede my grand march to absolute power in FIFA?”
Gianni Infantino is obviously not one to be trifled with, many are coming to learn. A treasure trove of leaked documents to the consortium of European investigative journalists paint a picture of a conniving individual, motivated purely by money and the power it can purchase for him.
In one of the most damning expose by some of the most credible European newspapers, we learnt how Gianni Infantino, as Secretary-General of European Confederation (UEFA) arranged for Paris-St. Germain and Manchester City (both powered by Arab money) to flout financial fairplay rules which gave them undue advantage in the transfer market, and domestic/ European competitions.
As FIFA President, Arab money has followed him in the form of a consortium under the banner of Japanese SOFTBANK, which handles the Saudi Sovereign Fund and which wants to create competitions that will eclipse the current European Champions League.
Obviously, European clubs are vehemently opposed to this proposal and Infantino has devised a plan where a matter of this magnitude would need to be voted upon by the FIFA Congress, the supreme body of the World Governing body.
He saw the credibility of a FIFA Congress vote during the vote for the 2026 World Cup hosts, where the joint USA-Canada-Mexico bid trounced the Moroccan bid by a majority vote of the 211-strong Congress.
Now, CAF alone holds 54 of those 211votes, and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter had proved that it was possible to deploy them all (to a man) to whatever cause he needed them.
In this case however, Infantino would need the African FAs to cast their vote for competitions to which they are neither needed nor wanted but merely rubber-stamp them and leave the work of popularizing the competitions to European and South American football powerhouses.
Musa Hassan Bility has unwittingly waded into this scenario, ostensibly without realizing the gravity and desperation with which both CAF President Ahmad and FIFA President Infantino need to control the politics of African football, each to their own ends.
In the belly of the “hostile takeover” at CAF comes the threat of the FIFA Audit of African FAs many of whom (it is suspected) may have misappropriated funds from the FIFA Forward Development program.
By December 2018, 19 of the 54 African FAs had not even received a kopek of the $1.25m annual grants for various reasons, compared with 100% receipt by the UEFA FAs.
Of the remaining 35 African FAs which actually received some of the annual grants, questions abound as to how these funds were utilized, and have become the subject of audits.
There is growing concern that the FIFA audits bring with them the prospect of termination of disbursement of more money and FIFA Ethics committee investigations, with the real prospect of a ban from all football activity.
Could this be the trade-off between the support for the hostile FIFA takeover of CAF and the suppression of the findings of FIFA audits in FAs?
From what we are discovering of Gianni Infantino and of his penchant for neo-imperialism in Africa, it is not so far-fetched!