Insiders Insight: Africa’s football boss cornered by high press
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Table of contents:
- The follow-up
- Civil disobedience in Sudan
- What everyone is talking about
- Arrest puts spotlight on African football
- What we are talking about
- A ‘creeping dictatorship’ in Liberia?
- Health Corner
- Africa’s ongoing child hunger crisis
- Hear this word
- Caster scores temporary win
- What else?
- If you have time, read these!
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Free segment: What everyone is talking about
Arrest puts spotlight on African football
The essentials: Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Ahmad Ahmad was briefly arrested and questioned by police in France. While later released without charge, the incident has led to renewed scrutiny of the frequent scandals surrounding football’s institutions on the continent.
The context: Ahmad Ahmad, a former Malagasy minister, surprised everyone and not least himself by being elected to the CAF’s top job in 2017. He beat incumbent Issa Hayatou who had held the job for three decades.
Ahmad’s surprise victory led to hopes that CAF could transcend decades of corruption allegations and scandals. His ascent coincided with similar dynamics in the world football federation FIFA, which had ousted long-time leader Sepp Blatter in 2016, also in the wake of several scandals.
Ahmad at first took steps to reform CAF, taking steps to avoid scheduling conflicts between club and international competitions and including players in his decision-making process. But he also began to display a disregard for the rules of his organisation and allegations of corruption and breaches of trust soon surfaced. A whistle-blower then leaked a dossier documenting alleged personal enrichment by Ahmad.
The French investigation is related to Ahmad’s reported decision to withdraw a contract for the provision of equipment from sports company Puma, only to give it to a French company that provided Adidas gear but at much-inflated prices. These allegations echo reports that Ahmad received bribes from Qatar in return for voting to give the 2022 world cup to the tiny Middle Eastern nation.
CAF was also faced with several harassment scandals of female players during Ahmad’s tenure, who himself is alleged to have dismissed an employee who turned down his sexual advances.
The good: In the wake of #MeToo and corruption allegations against the likes of Sepp Blatter, the behaviour and scandals of African football functionaries are receiving increased attention. Given that CAF and national federations are frequently opaque and not governed by democratic procedures, public attention and pressure is the only realistic way to affect change in the management of the hugely popular sport.
The bad: Despite the almost complete financial reliance of the CAF on money from FIFA, it is not guaranteed that football’s most powerful governing body will use its leverage to force CAF to reform. Due to the “one country, one vote” principle in FIFA’s governing bodies, African members hold significant influence. As long as Ahmad can rely on sufficient support from the bosses of national federations, which in turn profit from CAF and FIFA’s penchant for corruption and accountability, Ahmad’s only real fear are the legal systems of countries like France.
The future: While Ahmad was released without charge, the investigation into his behaviour is unlikely to be over. And given FIFA’s attempts to polish its own image, there is a certain chance that its ethics committee might take a closer look at Ahmad. A serious investigation and accountability for any wrongdoing by Ahmad would go a long way to open a brighter future for African football.
- African football’s ‘new dawn’ turns to dusk in Ahmad’s hands (Mail & Guardian)
- A #MeToo Wave Hits Global Soccer as the Women’s World Cup Begins(New York Times)
- [Exclusif] Football : Ahmad Ahmad, le président de la CAF, entendu par la police à Paris (Jeune Afrique)
- FIFA statement on Mr Ahmad Ahmad (FIFA)
- [Chronique] CAF : « annus horribilis » pour Ahmad Ahmad (Jeune Afrique)
- Africa football boss Ahmad released in France without charge, prosecutor says (France24)
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The Africa Insiders’ Newsletter is a collaboration between AfricanArguments.org and @PeterDoerrie, with contributions from @_andrew_green, @shollytupe, and assistance from Stella Nantongo. Part of the subscription revenue is funding in-depth and freely accessible reporting and analysis on African Arguments.