By Paul Nicholson
June 20 – The corruption-riddled, ungoverned FIFA-fiefdom that Africa has become has now impacted on the offices of the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino. In an act of demagoguery that may come to define his leadership, and in order to protect his own powerbase, FIFA has stepped in to take charge of Africa.
It reads like a story of old-style British colonial rule. CAF asked for help and a forensic audit of their finances and activities following multiple accusations of corruption and misuse of CAF funds (as well as a series of sexual harassment allegations) against their president Ahmad Ahmad and his administration.
They got in return a new, unelected ruler sent from the overlord at FIFA who ultimately controls the purse strings. Their elected ruler, Ahmad, but now the cause of their concerns (and a key supporter of Infantino) remains in the organisation. Not everyone in FIFA’s world is comfortable with the decision.
A parachute for Samoura
FIFA announced today it would be seconding its General Secretary, Fatma Samoura, to Africa as a kind of ‘High Commissioner for Africa’. In a press release FIFA said: “CAF and FIFA have agreed to appoint FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura as “FIFA General Delegate for Africa” for a 6-month period from 1 August 2019 to 31 January 2020, renewable with the agreement of both organisations.
“Ms. Samoura will be assisted by a group of experts who will work in a spirit of partnership with President Ahmad and his team.”
CAF had formally asked for FIFA to conduct a ‘forensic audit’ into its operations – a call that had come initially from within its executive committee and led by Liberian member Musa Bility.
To get approval for his decision, Infantino sent a letter to the Bureau of the FIFA Council (the heads of FIFA’s six confederations and the body’s ultimate decision-makers), asking for their formal support “to appoint Fatma Samoura as “FIFA General Delegate for Africa” for a 6-month period from 1 August 2019 to 31 January 2020, renewable with the agreement of CAF and FIFA. During this period, Fatma Samoura will stay Secretary General of FIFA and will delegate her functions within the FIFA administration in accordance with the relevant internal regulations.”
The letter was received at 1.50am (CET) last night (June 20) by UEFA, with a deadline for approval of 10.30am the same day. The FIFA statement announcing the decision to appoint Samoura to her new role was released about 11am.
Europe won’t be railroaded
Infantino’s letter drew a furious and withering response from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin who said “even with the best will in the world to help CAF, I cannot for the time being approve the detailed proposal set out in your letter”.
Ceferin will not be railroaded into slavishly following the FIFA line and outlined his reasons in response to Infantino in a letter, seen by Insideworldfootball.
“The deadline given to respond is far too short for us to examine this proposal with a sufficient degree of seriousness. lt is inconceivable to send a letter in the middle of the night (received at 1:50 this morning) and expect a response from me by 10:30am the same day. I am always prepared to help, but the FIFA Bureau of the Council must not be reduced to a mere rubber stamp function. Since the future FIFA General Delegate for Africa is not to take up her functions until 1 August, it would not have been too much to ask to allow the Bureau of the Council members a few days to examine the issue. I cannot be expected to have your proposal examined by UEFA’s legal team or consult the European members of the FIFA Council on a subject of such great importance in a mere 90 minutes. Never in the history of our institutions has the FIFA Secretary General, who under the FIFA Statutes leads the organisation, been placed on secondment to take control of a confederation, even with the latter’s consent. You must understand that this is not the type of decision to be taken lightly and in haste,” said Ceferin.
He also said that, despite a request from his staff, there was no official document from the CAF executive committee confirming – on behalf of their member associations – that they were willing to have the FIFA Secretary General become the FIFA General Delegate for Africa on a rolling six-month basis. One wonders if they have even been asked – they were asking for help with an audit.
Perhaps even more pointedly, Ceferin says: “There is also a serious doubt that the solution proposed complies with the current statutes of FIFA and the CAF.”
Ceferin concludes by pointing out the possible conflicts of interest – something that never seems to unduly concern Infantino.
“… the solution proposed raises a large number of questions and in particular the likelihood of conflicts of interest. How would it be possible not to raise this issue, knowing that the General Delegate for Africa would remain FIFA Secretary General and would act “under the authority of both CAF and FIFA” as stated in your letter. That raises questions about the decision-making procedures and the guardrails that would need to be put in place to avoid any conflicts. lt is therefore indispensable, before any decision can be taken, to have a better understanding of the mechanisms envisaged both at FIFA and at the CAF, with an accurate description of the role and powers of the FIFA General Delegate for Africa, an accurate description of the way FIFA would function in her absence, etc. At this stage, I am not in possession of enough information or assurances on this subject to be able to approve the proposal.”
It is a damning letter that, ultimately, points to the machiavellian political heart of FIFA’s administration.
The attitude towards Africa and its member nations is perhaps the most disturbing. There is a deeply uncomfortable implication that the Africans cannot (and should not) govern themselves – at attitude that is sickening to the core and would not pass.
Africa needs support, tough surgery on its corrupt leadership, and an honest enforcement of FIFA and CAF’s own statutes – not a manipulation of them. Africa did not need the imposition of political slavery and especially not the style meted out by this FIFA administration for its own power-broking ends.
At press time it was unclear what the other five confederation presidents’ position on Infantino’s letter requesting support is. Infantino has had some unequivocal support within that group, but they are presidents who have had to manage their way through reform and corruption issues within their own confederations. Even his most ardent of supporters amongst him will find it difficult to maintain credibility with their own members by saluting the FIFA flag too quickly on this one.
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