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Breaking: FIFA takes over management of African football barely hours to AFCON 2019

Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s secretary general, will hold the title of FIFA High Commissioner for Africa when she assumes the new post later this summer. Two days ago, FIFA suspended payments to the African soccer confederation
Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s secretary general, will hold the title of FIFA High Commissioner for Africa when she assumes the new post later this summer. Two days ago, FIFA suspended payments to the African soccer confederation

Faced with a crisis that threatens to overwhelm the governing body of soccer on the African continent, FIFA is taking the unprecedented step of sending its top administrator, its secretary general Fatma Samoura, to run the stricken organization.

The Cairo-based Confederation of African Football, soccer’s largest regional confederation, has lurched from disaster to disaster in the past few months, and is on the verge of a total meltdown just as the region’s biggest national team competition — the Africa Cup of Nations — prepares to begin in Egypt. On the eve of the tournament, senior officials gathered for an emergency meeting, where they agreed to being led by Samoura, who will hold the title of FIFA High Commissioner for Africa when she assumes the new post later this summer.

The decision comes amid myriad issues faced by CAF, not least an investigation into its Madagascan president, Ahmad Ahmad, by FIFA’s ethics committee amid a torrent of allegations of wrongdoing, ranging from financial mismanagement to sexual harassment. Ahmad, who continues to deny the allegations against him and has claimed to be the victim of a smear campaign, was briefly arrested in Paris earlier this month by the French police, a day after Gianni Infantini was re-elected as FIFA’s president in Paris.

“The rule of the temporary FIFA High Commissioner for Africa would be to conduct a root-and-branch review of governance of the confederation, oversee operational management of the organization, and recommend where needed a series of reform efforts, to be agreed with CAF member associations and with FIFA in order to put CAF itself on a modern and sound footing, improve its image and reputation and thus ensure that CAF is better equipped to face future challenges and to grasp future opportunities,” FIFA said in setting up the arrangement, according to an internal document seen by The New York Times.

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Infantino was said to be furious after the arrest of Ahmad, a FIFA vice president, earlier this month, since it came soon after he proclaimed that FIFA was in far better shape than it was when he took over in the aftermath of a sprawling Department of Justice indictment in 2015 that took aim at several high ranking FIFA officials, including the heads of both regional confederations in the Americas.

Though FIFA’s statutes allow it to take control should any of its member national associations run into trouble, they do not allow for it to run any of the sports six regional bodies. That is why it first required CAF’s executive board to agree to the change.

Finances may have played a part in getting a resolution. FIFA, which distributes millions of dollars to the confederations, two days ago suspended payments to CAF.

Neither group has officially commented on the matter.

The crisis at CAF touches all levels of the organization. Ahmad fired its secretary general, Amr Fahmy, during a stormy board meeting in April that followed the leak of internal documents which suggested financial mismanagement on a major scale. On the field, things haven’t been much better.

The second game of the two-match CAF Champions League final — the conclusion of the continent’s top club competition — was abandoned with 30 minutes to play after one of the teams refused to return following a controversial refereeing decision that could not be reviewed because the system put in place to analyze decisions had failed. A decision to replay the game has led to even more fury, with one of the teams, Espérance Sportive de Tunis, vowing to appeal the decision after it was told to return the medals and trophies it already had received.

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The imbroglio in Africa is particularly frustrating for Infantino. He campaigned hard on behalf of Ahmad, then a little known figure in soccer circles, when he challenged longtime African soccer titan Issa Hayatou for a post Hayatou had held for almost three decades. While Ahmad will retain the title of president, his day-to-day role will be limited during Samoura’s tenure.

The 2015 crisis that threatened FIFA’s very existence most likely played a role in its decision to step in. The crimes uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service largely occurred at the confederation level in the Americas, leaving Infantino and his inner circle to fret about the consequences of not doing anything about potential problems at CAF.

Source: New York Times

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