September 18 – FIFA President Gianni Infantino says the unprecedented move to send in his number two to clean up African football will “significantly improve” the sport on the continent.
At a news conference on the eve of Confederation of African Football congress in Cairo, Infantino brushed aside suggestions that there was widespread opposition to the move which was prompted by corruption allegations against CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.
FIFA is parachuting in secretary general Fatma Samoura on a ninth-month secondment from August to overhaul CAF which has been plagued by chaos.
Infantino attended a CAF executive committee meeting on Wednesday where members were shown an 11-point plan which apparently includes, according to news agencies, a review of CAF’s judicial bodies and full transparency of money flows.
“What counts is that we decide to cooperate, that the highest FIFA administrator is coming to work with CAF… to improve African football significantly,” Infantino told reporters.
“This is about democracy. We take on board all comments of everyone and together we try to do our best. The only thing I ask is to judge us on the results and not on speculation.”
Ahmad is widely reported to be under investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee based on evidence submitted by former CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy, who was recently fired from his post.
Ahmad was also sensationally taken in for questioning by French authorities at the time of the FIFA Congress in Paris in June. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
To add insult to injury, the second leg of the African Champions League final was controversially abandoned in May after Wydad Casablanca stormed off in protest at VAR not being consulted. Tunisian opponents Esperance were initially declared champions but CAF then back-tracked when its exco ordered a replay after an eight-hour meeting amid scenes of chaos and bitterness at a downtown Paris hotel.
Both clubs have since appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), asking to be declared champions, with the final due to be rescheduled on neutral ground some time following the African Cup of Nations final on Friday.
CAF vice-president Amaju Pinnick (who lost his position at the Congress) insisted it is misleading to suggest that FIFA were taking over.
“We want to change the narrative from takeover to partnership and collaboration,” he said. “People just feel that they are taking over but it’s not the case. Basically, it’s to strengthen our judicial, our governance and our fiscal discipline…its pure collaboration.”
Meantime, Infantino has rejected comments by his predecessor Sepp Blatter that FIFA has taken a “colonialist” attitude towards African football.
“I have to laugh about it,” he said.
“What does it mean, colonialism? I don’t know. It’s not part of my vocabulary. I know what it means to work, to team up, to roll up your sleeves, to go on the pitch and help and that is what we are doing,” he added.
“(Samoura’s) heart is beating for Africa and we all suffer when we see what is going on here.”
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