59 years old Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad became the Confederation of African Football (CAF) President in March 2017 after beating Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou in the elections by 34 votes against 20. He is CAF’s seventh President succeeding Hayatou who had been in charge since 1988.
A lot was expected from the newly elected President who made some good promises on how to revive the beautiful game in the continent and especially improving on the standard and organization of the African Cup of Nations and the continental club competitions.
Despite his good intentions, it will not be wrong to say that all the hope and enthusiasm that came with his election has quickly disappeared due to his rash decision making, lack of foresight and too much improvisation in his management of the continent’s supreme football body.
A few examples can justify this assertion: Hosting most CAF events mostly in North Africa, Equatorial Guinea were suspended from the Women’s AFCON in Ghana in 2018 because of Jackie Messomo who had previously won the competition with Equatorial Guinea on the basis that she was a Cameroonian, with Kenya handed a place in the tournament only for Equatorial Guinea to be reinstated and Kenya thrown out a few days to the competition; The eviction of Ismaily from the 2019 CAF Champions League only to reinstate them later and disrupt the flow of the competition; The wrongful increase of the number of teams to play the 2019 AFCON which was attributed to Cameroon in 2014 as a 16 nations tournament to 24 teams without proper negotiations; The withdrawal of the 2019 AFCON hosting rights from Cameroon(after declaring there was no plan B) without applying Article 92 of the Rules and Regulations forcing Comoros to run CAS spend resources that the nation could have invested in Developing their football ; The attribution of the 2021 AFCON hosting rights to Cameroon which was initially attributed to Côte D’Ivoire and shifting the Ivorian to 2023 which had been attributed to Guinea Conakry and making the announcement before entering into difficult negotiations with the Presidents of these countries; The fact that he was openly refused a Visa by the American authorities to attend a FIFA event in the USA; The awarding of the 2019 CAF Champions League trophy to Esperance of Tunis after the return leg final played only for 58 minutes and Wydad refused to carry on because the VAR which was a key determinant of the result in the first leg in Morocco was alleged to have technical issues in the return leg. After handing the trophy over to Esperance an emergency CAF Executive meeting was called which led to a two year ban for the Esperance President and a decision to replay the final in a neutral venue after the 2019 AFCON. The questions that first come to mind are what happens if some of the players had to move to other clubs? why should the return leg be played in a neutral venue if Wydad had the privilege to host the first leg? Why did he not employ critical reasoning before declaring Esperance as champions and now want them to relinquish the trophy and fight for it all over again?
As if all the issues of sexual harassment and corruption were going unnoticed, today the French authorities arrested mighty CAF’s President like a commoner for questioning and FIFA is ready to support them in their investigation over a case with Puma and other corruption charges.
We are a few days away from the AFCON and the female FIFA World Cup begins tomorrow in France with Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa representing Africa with a lot of uncertainty looming over the head of African football’s top decision maker.
Is it therefore wrong to ask the question whether Mr Ahmad is a blessing or curse to African football?
One thing is certain, only the actors can change but the show must go on. With or without Mr Ahmad Ahmad football must go on, therefore simple logic demands that if he brings in so much negative energy, for the interest of the growth of the game in our continent a choice has to be made that should spare the continent any further embarrassment. A stitch in time saves nine.