CAF elections might be over but the old dynasty isn’t going away without a fight

By Robson Sharuko

HARARE – The dynasty that Issa Hayatou built for about three decades of control over African football is fighting back, after the shock defeat of its emperor, with a spirited attempt to tarnish the name of new CAF president Ahmad Ahmad through a raft of damaging media articles which portray the Malagasy official as a corrupt individual.

Having failed to block his candidature, by using a number of damaging articles that appeared on various media sites in the countdown to that election in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it appears those who have been trying to paint Ahmad as a corrupt man, who does not deserve to be the leader of CAF, have upped their act.

They claim Ahmad is not fit for the office, accusing him of having received a questionable, if not corrupt payment, from disgraced former Asian Football Confederation boss Mohamed Bin Hammam who was banned from the game for life by the FIFA Ethics Committee after being found guilty of a number of corrupt activities.

The Qatari billionaire businessman, who rose to become FIFA vice-president, fell from grace when he was suspended after being accused of having paid large sums in bribes to leaders of the Caribbean Football Union on May 20, 2011, in Trinidad and Tobago in an attempt to corruptly influence them to vote for him in the 2011 FIFA presidential election.

He was challenging the then FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in that poll, before the Swiss strongman was also swept away by a huge corruption scandal that rocked the world football governing body after he was accused of making an improper million dollar payment to the then UEFA boss Michel Platini.

Last week, an international media organisation, which has been running a spirited campaign against Ahmad even in the countdown to the CAF elections – going to the extent of suggesting he was facing a FIFA Ethics Committee investigation – followed that up with another version of a story claiming the new CAF boss could be sanctioned by the world football organising committee.

It repeated its accusations that Ahmad  received a corrupt payment from Bin Hammam in the past and he could be dragged before the FIFA Ethics Committee even though the same organ cleared his candidature and gave him the greenlight to challenge Hayatou for the CAF presidency in a poll he won 34-20.

“The emails in 2010 were clear. A Madagascan standing in his country’s soccer elections wanted his billionaire friend Mohamed bin Hammam to send him cash to help his campaign,” the publication said in its latest report.

“That scarcely mattered when Ahmad Ahmad was a relatively unknown administrator from a soccer backwater, but fast forward seven years and the 57-year-old is one of the sport’s top officials after winning an election to head up soccer in Africa last week.

“FIFA’s Independent Ethics Committee is now looking into the payments, a prelude to a possible full-scale investigation, people familiar with the matter have said.

“Campaigning in Madagascar, an island nation 400 kilometers (249 miles) off the southeast coast of mainland Africa, meant expensive travel, and Ahmad, the incumbent, wasn’t allowed to use soccer federation funds, he said, in the first detailed responses on the subject.

“The probe into the payments is a new setback to FIFA as new President Gianni Infantino attempts to repair a reputation tarnished by the 2015 U.S. indictment that toppled almost all of its top management. Qatari Bin Hammam, the former head of soccer in Asia, was at the centre of that scandal, having been found to have disbursed cash around the world. He received a life ban from the sport in 2012.”

But the Ahmad camp have been hitting back, saying that this is all part of a plot to tarnish the image of the new CAF boss.

“It’s very clear that the source of Ahmad’s trial and persecution in some sections of the media is coming from those who now find themselves without the privileges and power they had taken for granted all these years and, every day, they really can’t believe that this has happened and they have been ousted from power,’’ an Ahmad backer told The Southern Times.

‘’You only need to see that the narration has been in the same media organisations that were used as hostile agents to project this image of Ahmad as a corrupt individual, in the run up to the elections, and started running a number of articles that were hostile to his personality in a desperate and failed attempt to either stop him from running in the elections or to influence the voters to keep the old rulers in charge.

‘’It’s a shame that they can try and use the weapon of corruption to paint Ahmad as a bad leader, hanging on to this payment from Bin Hammam which has been explained as money that went into his election payment in Madagascar, in the publication of election material and also to buy football equipment when these are the same guys whose corrupt deals, which are now under review, are known to everyone and whose leader was always accused of being corrupt.

‘’We know that change is a difficult thing to accept but there is no case here because Ahmad wasn’t only cleared to run for the CAF presidency, something that was expected because he is a principled man but it was their man (Hayatou) who should have been stopped from that election if the challenge to his candidature had come on time.

“It’s interesting that while these people didn’t see anything in Hayatou claiming that the 100,000 French francs he received was a gift for his confederation, and didn’t see any issues with that when it came to his CAF presidency, they now find issues about Ahmad when his case is very, very clear and he never hid it.’’

Stanislas Rakotomala, who is Ahmad’s right-hand man in Madagascar, dismissed the latest attempt to tarnish the image of the new CAF president.

“It’s his own money so he can spend it like he wants to,” Rakotomalala told Bloomberg.

“If you have a friend you ask if he can help with your election. Bin Hammam considered him like his friend so he asked to have help from him. What’s the problem with that?”

April 2017
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