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One for all, all for African football?

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Ahmad Ahmad will soon be fixed. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) examines on Tuesday the appeal lodged by the outgoing president of the African Football Confederation (CAF) against his suspension for five years from any football-related activity. The Lausanne-based body has promised a quick verdict and for good reason: time is running out. The 61-year-old Malagasy intends to be cleared in time to present himself to his own succession, on March 12 in Rabat (Morocco).

Convicted by FIFA of several breaches of its code of ethics, including suspicion of corruption, Ahmad Ahmad has found at his expense that alliances do not last forever. In 2017, the support of Gianni Infantino allowed him to surprise and overthrow Issa Hayatou, who had headed CAF for nearly thirty years. Four years later, the man of renewal belongs to the past but Africa is still, for the boss of world football, a stake for the future.

Read also: Issa Hayatou has fallen, African football has a new president

Since its election to replace Sepp Blatter in 2015, the Italo-Switzerland has multiplied by five the funds allocated to the national federations of the continent to bring them to a total of 300 million francs per year. He opened regional offices in several metropolises (Dakar, Johannesburg, Brazzaville, Kigali). The organization in 2026 of a World Cup with 48 teams (instead of 32) should benefit Africa, which would go from five to nine places. Last month, Gianni Infantino undertook an “African tour” in several countries, between meetings of senior politicians and inaugurations of infrastructure.

Sealed fate

On the one hand, he wants to see his sport develop all over the world (and African football is the one that needs it the most). On the other, he understood – like his predecessor – the importance of Africa in his own destiny. CAF brings together 54 national federations, one less than UEFA and more than each of the four other FIFA confederations. In 2023, Gianni Infantino will seek a third term at the head of the body and these 54 votes, out of 211 in total, will weigh heavily. This explains his interest in African affairs.

As soon as Ahmad Ahmad’s suspension was announced last November, four personalities applied for the presidency of the organization. There are two presidents of national federations, Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania) and Augustin Senghor (Senegal); a former president of a national federation, Jacques Anouma (Côte d’Ivoire); and finally the president of the powerful South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, Patrice Motsepe. It is the latter who would have been chosen as “champion” by FIFA.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) revealed that a discreet meeting had been organized between the four contenders this weekend in Rabat, at the initiative of the Moroccan and Egyptian football federations, and in the presence of two members of the circle brought closer to Gianni Infantino, in order to seal the fate of the election. The idea: to offer the other three candidates to line up behind Patrice Motsepe in exchange for positions of responsibility in the future organization chart of CAF.

Who is loyalty to?

According to AFP sources, all these little people must meet next weekend in Nouakchott (Mauritania) during the final of the Africa Cup of Nations under 20 to finalize the “Rabat pact” . Ahmed Yahya and Augustin Senghor, called to become first and second vice-presidents of the body, would be convinced. Promised to a role of adviser, Jacques Anouma would not have renounced his candidacy, according to the indiscretions of his entourage to various African media. Contacted by Time, the person concerned has not yet followed up.

69-year-old financier having worked in the private sector and then in the public, diplomat and ambassador of his country, the former president of the Ivorian Football Federation has devised a program of reforms in the governance and management of a “sick confederation “. It wants to strengthen local actors, enhance their skills, restore financial balances.

In danger in its organization, CAF had itself called for help in 2019 and FIFA had sent its general secretary Fatma Samoura for a six-month mission. Today, trumpets Jacques Anouma, it is time to “restore” the authority. If he had to play his personal card, he would represent in a way the choice of the independence of Africa.

Patrice Motsepe made his fortune in mining until he became one of the richest men on the continent. He enjoys a strong political network, his success in business foreshadows his talent as a manager, while his program pulls the classic strings: good governance, professionalization, development of infrastructure and women’s football, flirting with private investors … ‘has never been involved in the governing bodies of football, which some see as a regrettable lack of experience and others as a guarantee of a certain freshness.

Critics especially fear that his loyalty will be acquired more to FIFA than to African football.

Also read: FIFA trembles on its new foundations

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