By Andrew Warshaw
February 2 – In a rare and unexpected move that will raise questions over football’s judicial process at the highest level, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dramatically reinstated disgraced African football chief Ahmad Ahmad as head of his confederation pending a full appeal against his five-year FIFA ban.
CAS said it has granted Ahmad an interim ruling to temporarily freeze the ban, imposed last November, ahead of his appeal hearing on March 2, with a verdict promised before CAF votes for his successor 10 days later.
One interpretation is that technically this means Ahmad could, after all, stand for re-election on March 12 if CAS throws out his ban. Another is that he would remain ineligible whatever happens by virtue of the fact that the CAS ruling last Friday came well after the deadline for candidates and after their eligibility was rubber-stamped.
“Due to a risk of irreparable harm for Mr Ahmad if the disciplinary sanction is maintained during the period prior to the CAF elections, the CAS panel has upheld the request to temporarily stay the effects of the [FIFA ban],” CAS said in a statement.
But it also said it had rejected his request to prevent “FIFA from taking any decision aimed at preventing Mr Ahmad from participating in, or aimed at making it difficult for him to participate in, the election.”
And although its judges ruled in Ahmad’s favour, CAS added they “emphasized that such temporary decision does not prejudge in any way the decision it will take after analysing the merits of the case.”
If – and it’s a big if – CAS ends up overruling FIFA’s ethics judges who found that Ahmad had “breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds, and abused his position as the CAF president,” he will still need to somehow find a way of squeezing into the election race having already been deemed ineligible to run.
Either way, there are legitimate questions to be asked. The move by CAS may have been so as not to prejudice Ahmad’s chances of running for re-election should his suspension be overturned but why did it take them so long to freeze a ban that was handed down two months ago, especially when they knew the CAF elections were slated for March 12? As soon as the ban was announced Ahmad declared his intention to appeal.
As of last week, four candidates were cleared to run: Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Patrice Motsepe (South Africa), Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania).
But both FIFA and Ahmad’s critics within the African football leadership now have to endure an agonising wait to see whether a man who was proclaiming the backing of 46 of the 54 federations prior to his ban can secure an unlikely comeback.
Ironically, Ahmad returns to the fray just days after his interim replacement, Constant Omari, was barred by FIFA from standing for election for the FIFA Council.
And he is wasting no time, with his CAF presidential hat back on, to explore every avenue to get back into the race.
He was due to meet the CAF governance committee today to discuss his candidacy and then travel to Cameroon to attend the final of the African Nations Championship.
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