Africa’s football governing body is set to have a much-anticipated congress on Thursday, where a corruption scandal and a decision to cede control of the body to FIFA are likely to dominate discussions.
The meeting to be held in Egypt’s capital, Cairo is the first by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) 54-member associations since allegations of fraud and sexual harassment were levelled against the body’s president Ahmad Ahmad in April.
The case against Ahmad
Ahmad, a former cabinet minister in his homeland Madagascar, was reported in March to FIFA’s ethics committee by CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy, who was then fired.
Further allegations of fraud have recently been made against Ahmad, who was detained and questioned by French authorities in June as part of a corruption investigation.
Ahmad has denied wrongdoing in several media interviews but has not responded to repeated requests by Reuters for comment on the specific allegations against him.
FIFA took over the running of CAF in the wake of the corruption allegations following an unprecedented decision by the African body’s executive committee to cede control.
That decision was seen by some of Ahmad’s critics as a bid for him to try and stay in power, even if it opens him up to further scrutiny when FIFA audits CAF’s finances.
The handover of power has proven unpopular with some member associations.
They dislike the idea of African football being run by outsiders even though FIFA is sending its Senegalese secretary general Fatma Samoura on a ninth-month secondment from August to overhaul the organisation.
Not business as usual
Traditionally CAF congresses are docile affairs where decisions sought by the president are then approved by members, but Thursday’s meeting is expected to be a break from the norm.
“This week will define African football. All this nonsense must stop,” one football association president, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
Opposition to Ahmad remains largely tempered and from anonymous sources and there is no expectation of any challenge to his leadership.
Much attention will be on FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who is scheduled to attend.
FIFA has confirmed there is an ethics investigation into Ahmad, who is also, by virtue of his role at CAF, a FIFA vice president.
In the meantime, CAF president on Wednesday made decisions regarding the management of some football competitions across the continent.
The number of teams at the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations has been increased from 8 to 12, while the club competitions including the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup final will be played in one single match in future rather than over two legs as at present.
“Huge decision that CAF took today: the (finals) will be now played on a single game,” he said on Twitter without giving further details.
CAF vice-president Amaju Pinnick said the details were still being ironed out. “We are working on that”, he told reporters.
However, supporters quickly pointed out on social media that conditions in Africa, with vast distances, poor transport infrastructure and a lack of budget airlines, are very different from Europe and the matches risked being played in empty stadiums.
This year’s two-leg Champions League final ended in chaos when Wydad Casablanca of Morocco refused to play on after having a 59th-minute effort disallowed in the return leg of the final in Tunis against Esperance.
Esperance were initially declared winners but that decision was overturned by CAF’s executive committee which ordered a replay. Both clubs have subsequently appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), each arguing they should be declared winners.
READ MORE: Tunisia’s Esperance protests CAF decision to re-stage final against Wydad