— Published 24 November 2020

FIFA sends Ahmad Ahmad to the locker room for five years

End of game for Ahmad Ahmad. The Madagascan leader, elected in March 2017 as president of the African Football Confederation (CAF), will not be able to seek a new term next year. He will not even be able to continue to gravitate in the world of football. He was suspended by FIFA for a period of five years.

The decision of the FIFA Ethics Committee, announced in a statement on Monday, November 23rd, comes as no surprise. Ahmad Ahmad had been in the crosshairs of the world football body for a long time. The prospect of the CAF presidential elections, and his recent decision to run for his own succession, precipitated matters.

FIFA internal justice considered that the former Malagasy politician (he was Secretary of State for Sport and Minister of Fisheries in Madagascar) “had failed in his duty of loyalty, granted gifts and other benefits, inappropriately managed funds and abused his position as CAF President”. Quite generous for one man, who came to the head of African football with his pockets full of promises of transparency and fairness after the Issa Hayatou years.

The ethics commission’s investigation “focused on various issues related to the governance of the CAF, including the organisation and funding of a pilgrimage to Mecca, its connections with the sports equipment company Tactical Steel and other activities”, according to FIFA.

In addition to his five-year suspension, Ahmad Ahmad is fined 200,000 Swiss francs (185,000 euros).

Ahmad Ahmad, 60, entered the world of football as a coach, was taken into police custody in June 2019 by the French justice on suspicion of corruption. Two months later, FIFA decided to place the CAF under supervision, sending the secretary general of the world body, Fatma Samoura, to step into a new role of “general delegate” for a period of six months.

Last February, an audit carried out by the Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) agency on CAF’s finances was very critical of the methods and management of the Malagasy leader.

In addition, the former secretary general of the CAF, Amr Fahmy had alerted FIFA by an unqualified letter, where he accused Ahmad Ahmad of corruption – payment of bribes to several leaders, personal use of CAF funds – and sexual harassment against several employees of the continental organisation. Ahmad Ahmad had denied the facts. Then, in April 2019, he got rid of his secretary general by pointing out the door.

Ahmad Ahmad, who has temporarily abandoned his post after being struck down by the coronavirus, will be able to appeal the FIFA decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). But he will have to wait for the publication on the FIFA website of the full ethics committee decision, a 55-page document that will not be accessible for 60 days. In the meantime, the interim head of CAF has been held since April 13, 2020 by Congolese Constant Omari.

Expected failing to have been anticipated, the sidelining of Ahmad Ahmad opens a wide door to a new head of the CAF. With less than four months before the presidential election, scheduled for March 2021, four men have announced their candidacy: the 70-year-old Ivorian Jacques Anouma, already a candidate in 2013 against Issa Hayatou; the South African Patrice Motsepe, 58, ranked in the top 10 of the biggest fortunes of the African continent; Senegalese lawyer Augustin Senghor, 56, presented as the man of consensus; and Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya, 44, considered close to Ahmad Ahmad.

Two other leaders, Tunisians Tarek Bouchamaoui and Wadie Jary, have also announced their intention to run for the presidency of CAF.