By Paul Nicholson
March 1 – It was a busy weekend of politicking for the CAF presidential candidates in Rabat, Morocco, with the added spice and presence of FIFA emissaries whose work increasingly looks likely to determine who will lead African football following the March elections.
The meetings in Rabat (where FIFA president Gianni Infantino had been a guest middle of last week) were called at the weekend ostensibly to discuss the promotion of a single West African candidate for the CAF presidential elections.
Invitations to Rabat were accepted by three of the presidential candidates, Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma (pictured), Senegal’s Agustin Senghor and Mauritania’s Ahmad Yahya. A surprise visitor to Rabat was South African Patrice Motsepe, widely accepted as being promoted as FIFA’s preferred candidate.
Even more of a surprise at the meetings were the presence of FIFA’s Veron Mosengo-Omba and Mathias Grafstrom, Infantino’s political stormtroopers when it comes to persuasive federation politics, and particularly African football politics.
Detail is emerging of a behind closed doors deal to broker the standing down of Senghor and Yahya from the CAF presidential election with Motsepe being positioned to take over from the disgraced Ahmad Ahmad.
As part of their agreement to step aside, Senghor and Yahya are instead being offered the positions of CAF first and second vice presidents.
It was also rumoured that within all the political dealmaking, FIFA would parachute its former General Delegate for Africa and General Secretary Fatma Samoura (also rumoured to be considered surplus to requirements at FIFA HQ in Zurich), back into CAF. The CAF executive committee had already sent Samoura from the General Delegate role back to FIFA HQ, and Africa’s presidents reportedly were quick to quash any talk of her return (though with a political shift in wind this could easily change).
Very much the outsider in these cloak-and-dagger proceedings is Anouma, the only candidate to have already sat on the FIFA Council and CAF Executive Committee.
The Ivorian comes from perhaps FIFA’s least favourite African member association. FIFA’s plan for the Ivory Coast was for the country’s legendary striker Didier Drogba to contest the elections for Ivory Coast FA president. However, he was barred from the local election – essentially for having no involvement or showing any interest in Ivory Coast football since the end of his playing career.
FIFA has subsequently put the Ivory Coast FA under the control of a Normalisation Committee while it reorganises the elections.
Anouma, seemingly similarly isolated by FIFA and certainly offered nothing in the Rabat deal-making, has significant backing from the Ivory Coast government for his CAF presidential candidacy and is understood to have a private groundswell of support from a significant bulk of African member nations.
Much of that support coming from a belief that Africa should be left alone to choose its president and not have the overbearing political interests of FIFA’s Zurich elite choosing its leaders and its football pathways.
But this is a football election, and in Africa in particular, power over money has more influence than good governance. FIFA and Motsepe have a lot of the first.
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