FIFA sends in Fatma Samoura to supervise CAF affairs
FIFA has appointed its secretary general Fatma Samoura as 'FIFA General Delegate for Africa' in a bid to improve football governance on the continent.
The biennial Africa Cup of Nations is currently under way in Egypt and the 24 competing nations have got down to the business of playing thrilling football, taking their destiny in their hands. The arrest of Ahmad Ahmad, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), in Paris earlier this month in a corruption-related matter, seems like a distant past.
In the boardroom, however, what has been swept under the table since the embarrassing episode is the autonomy of African football.
- Amaju Pinnick, chair of the Nigeria Football Federation and Ahmad’s first vice-president, was next in line to preside over the CAF, but has now been sidestepped by FIFA.
- The world governing body has taken the novel step of appointing FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura, the world’s most powerful woman in football, to supervise the affairs of the CAF.
- Senegalese-born Samoura, an astute administrator with decades of experience at the United Nations, has been handed the unusual title of FIFA General Delegate for Africa and will run the CAF from August till early next year. The time frame is subject to a six-month extension, at the discretion of FIFA.
- In that period FIFA, through Samoura, will conduct a forensic audit that could throw up some more scandals.
- Amaju, who came through the ranks as sports chief in his native Delta State, also has some corruption allegations to face in the Nigerian courts.
To further underscore what may be Zürich’s deep-seated distrust for Pinnick and the rest of Ahmad’s lieutenants in Cairo, FIFA also suspended payments to the CAF two days ago. The New York Times reports that the withholding of funds may have been a necessary move in getting the the CAF hierarchy to agree to let Samoura take control on the eve of the Africa Cup.
Analysts are saying that the move is an indictment of the African body’s leadership and is a welcome decision to stay a rudderless ship with a greedy captain and crew.
- “The clear inference of this decision is that CAF is unable to handle its own affairs and solve its own problems, and that we have to seek the assistance of the master – often outside Africa – to help us clean our mess,” wrote South African daily City Press, in a stinging editorial.
- Nigerian journalist Oluwashina Okeleji, writing for Al-Jazeera, revealed that Ahmad had also bankrolled the hajj pilgrimage journeys of a number of African football association heads. “CAF’s unwillingness to honour its own rules and laid-down procedures undermines its credibility as a governing body,” he added.
- Disgraced former FIFA executive Sepp Blatter called Samoura’s appointment “new colonialism”, while UEFA’s Aleksander Ceferin said the European football body did not approve of FIFA’s decision.
Bottom line: First Issa Hayatou, then Ahmad. How many Africans does it take to change a lightbulb at the CAF headquarters? It remains to be seen how many more officials the world’s most powerful woman – and most powerful African – in football will sweep away with her reforms when the final whistle has blown in Cairo.