CAF and African Football Governance

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The world-renowned Austrian-born management consultant, educator and author, the late Peter Ferdinand Drucker stated that, “Only three things happen naturally in organizations, friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership”.

This aptly describes the situation prevailing at the Confederation of African Football (CAF). The honeymoon is over for CAF President Ahmad Ahmad. The Madagascan was elected in March 2017 to succeed the Cameroonian strongman, Issa Hayatou, who had been at the helm of the continental soccer governing body for 29 years.

There is no doubt that there was a crisis of expectations when Ahmad ascended to power as the head honcho of African football.

It was also naturally expected that he would undo the cronyism and elaborate system of patronage that had developed to characterise the Hayatou administration.

However, there is now evidently a lot of bitterness about the nascent Ahmad administration. Although Ahmad was primarily backed mostly by the member countries of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) as well as those from East and West Africa, he is reported to have abandoned those very same associations.

He is seen to be now too close to the game’s power brokers from North Africa, who did not support him during his campaign and ascendance to power.

The frustration with Ahmad has reached a boiling point with one, Musa Bility, a CAF executive committee member and former Liberian FA president, resigning from the CAF Emergency Committee and the Chairmanship of the Standing Committees of the African Nations Championship (CHAN)

There is no doubt that all is not well in the CAF family. This obviously does not augur well for the development of the game on the continent.

There is a need for cohesion and harmony within the CAF executive for meaningful football development to take place on the continent.

Although Ahmad and his supporters might dismiss Bility’s ranting and ravings as those of a mad man, the fact remains that the same Bility played a crucial role in Ahmad’s election to the position of CAF president. It seems Ahmad is now burning bridges

Issa Hayatou was, no doubt, a man who demanded loyalty. The consequences were too ghastly to contemplate for those who decided to go against him.

Hayatou’s long tenure at the helm was not helped by allegations of impropriety levelled against him and various other African football leaders.

These allegations made disturbing reading but were not entirely surprising.  It is now Ahmad‘s role to rebrand CAF and usher in an organisation characterised by good governance and transparency in administration and management.

This is the legacy that the current football leaders need to bequeath to the next generation of CAF officials. No credible sponsor wants to be associated with an organisation where incidences of bribery and corruption are rampant.

Investigations that have taken place at FIFA are needed at CAF in order to safeguard the integrity of the global game.

It’s a pity there is no strong CAF Ethics Committee to investigate the leadership for possible transgressions! As the Africans say, “When a fish begins to rot, it starts with the head”.

Football is indeed “the beautiful game”,” “o jogo bonito”, as the great Brazilian player, Pele, described it. However, the game in Africa has sunken to its lowest doldrums.   CAF is not a private club for the privileged few.

It is the custodian of the game in Africa.  The issue of preserving the “status quo” is not serving African football but the interests of the leadership.

There is need to rattle the cage for development to take place in any organization because progress is rarely made when people are in their “comfort zones”.

There is a need for support for those calling for change in the organisational culture of CAF. The philosophy of “business as usual” can no longer hold water.

Ahmad, just like his much-maligned predecessor, Issa Hayatou, cannot continue to be President of CAF when there are no tangible benefits on the ground to justify his leadership.

African FAs, especially those in Southern Africa must ask themselves serious questions and as a collective must be brutally honest with each other if they want to continue to be relevant on the national development agendas of their respective countries and the sport which they represent.

To this end, although it is a painful reality, Southern African FAs and indeed the whole of Africa must start to plan a football life without Ahmad at the helm. The next CAF elections, probably in 2021, will be crucial for him.

He cannot, like his predecessor, be there forever. Sooner or later he has to go and a genuine process of building a more vibrant and transparent CAF must begin for the benefit of talented youngsters all over the continent. 

As Regina Tucker has aptly stated, “You can give a person knowledge but you can’t make them think. Some people want to remain fools, only because the truth requires change”.

 

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