By Andrew Warshaw
November 23 – The head of African football, Ahmad Ahmad, has paid the ultimate price for a plethora of misdemeanours and indiscretions by being banned by FIFA for five years.
FIFA’s ethics committee issued its ruling – the limited nature of which was something of a surprise given the gravity of the case – following a detailed investigation that sprung into action amid reports of Ahmad’s misconduct throughout his controversial presidency. Ahmad failed to reach one full term.
Insideworldfootball first broke the story of Ahmad’s corruption in March 2019 – see Lid lifted on CAF boss Ahmad’s empire of corrupt deals and bought officials.
The FIFA Ethics judiciary found the Confederation of African Football president “had breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds and abused his position as the CAF President.”
FIFA also fined him 200,000 Swiss francs.
The ethics committee had been in receipt of a number of complaints, including evidence pointing to a misappropriation of CAF money to finance personal pilgrimage trips to the Umrah for Muslim federation presidents.
Whilst Ahmad’s enemies will be delighted to see the back of him, FIFA’s statement was conspicuous by the absence of any reference to his alleged sexual transgressions throughout his tenure that are said to have ruined the lives of so many victims.
Regardless of that, his grip on power in FIFA’s largest confederation is surely over pending the success of any appeal which could, theoretically, delay his suspension in time for Ahmad to run for re-election next March for a second four-year term.
The 60-year from Madagascar, who was one of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s staunchest supporters, was encouraged to run again by a swathe of supporters, with all but eight federations on the Continent giving him their backing.
But that has now been blown out of the water, leaving four candidates in the running to take over the most powerful seat in African football as well as replace Ahmad as a FIFA vice-president.
Ironically only last week Ahmad, who recently contracted Covid-19, handed over the reins temporary to his deputy, CAF first vice president Constant Omari, while he recovers.
But now he won’t be returning, with Omari presumably taking control until next spring’s election. Omari is a key Ahmad ally and last year replaced Nigerian FA boss Amaju Pinnick as CAF 1st vice president. The balance of power and the involvement of FIFA in the election beyond being a scrutineer, will be closely scrutinised by the rest of the football world.
Allegations of financial corruption and sexual harassment had plagued Ahmad’s leadership. He was detained by French authorities in Paris on the eve of the 2019 Women’s World Cup for questioning about a CAF equipment deal involving French company Tactical Steel.
“The investigation into Mr. Ahmad’s conduct in his position as CAF President during the period from 2017 to 2019 concerned various CAF-related governance issues, including the organization and financing of an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, his involvement in CAF’s dealings with the sports equipment company Tactical Steel and other activities,” FIFA said in its statement.
Such was Ahmad inability to govern that FIFA ended up parachuting in general secretary Fatma Samoura to run African football for six months before the CAF executive committee voted her return to Zurich.
In recent days, fresh evidence of financial irregularities started to emerge surrounding an annual $100,000 ‘sweetheart’ grant to member associations that was approved at CAF’s 2017 Congress.
Sadly one person who won’t be able to celebrate Ahmad’s downfall is former CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy, who tragically died earlier this year from cancer at the age of just 36.
It was Fahmy who blew the whistle on the corrupt activities of his boss including bribery and misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars. His ‘reward’ for bringing Ahmad’s corrupt activities to light was to be dismissed from his job, but his actions have not been in vain.
Fahmy’s submission in March 2019 to the ethics investigations committee is said to have accused Ahmad of ordering him to pay $20,000 bribes into accounts of African football association presidents. It also accused Ahmad of costing CAF an extra $830,000 by ordering equipment via Tactical Steel.
It was Fahmy’s shocking revelations that prompted FIFA to effectively take over the running of African by parachuting in Samoura after the CAF executive committee had requested a forensic audit of the regional confederation’s accounts.
All eyes will now be on the race to succeed Ahmad with a very different dynamic in place than before today’s announcement in terms of the four contenders – Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Patrice Motsepe (South Africa), Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania) – as each of them attempts to distance himself from Ahmad’s corrupt and immoral regime.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org