Ahmad pledges new dawn for African Football

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 24, 2017 16:33

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Ahmad pledges new dawn for African Football

By Satish Sekar in Rabat © Satish Sekar (July 21st 2017)

The New Broom

Ahmad Ahmad came to power four months ago promising reform. The first CAF (Confederation of African Football) Symposium has delivered the promise of a new vision. Eight workshops tackled a variety of issues, including one close to the charity Empower-Sport Ltd.1 and this media EmpowerS Magazine’s heart – the treatment of legends after their careers on the pitch have ended.

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That workshop involved some of the greats of African football – moderated by Cameroon’s Geremi Njitap. Marketing African football also ranked high on the priorities, as did sports medicine. Cheating was tackled too as was corruption. Strangely in the discussion on technology VAR (Video assistant referees) was conspicuous by its absence.

“We will leave Morocco sure of our new ideas”, CAF’s President Ahmad told the Extraordinary General Meeting of CAF this morning. “We will together give strength to a new CAF which is totally free”.

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He followed up the vision outlined by King Mohammad VI of Morocco under whose High Patronage the first Symposium on African Football took place at the Palais de Congrès in Skhirat – near Rabat – on July 18th and 19th. A number of recommendations followed at the Executive Committee yesterday, and were adopted at the Emergency General Meeting today.
AFCON Controversy

After 29 years Issa Hayatou was swept from power. Ahmad is very new in the job, but has promised reform of CAF. The two-day symposium gave voice to that commitment and new programmes were suggested by the membership. The inter-club competitions are being reorganised, referees and coaching are being assessed and packages for improvement devised. African youth competitions were examined and restructuring suggested.

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Zanzibar, admitted under Hayatou, saw its membership revoked. It was deemed part of Tanzania again. It was not the only controversial decision. Future AFCONs will expand to 24 teams and take place in June and July, beginning in 2019 with defending champions Cameroon. There is to be an inspection of the facilities in September.

The expansion will pose a big challenge, especially for Cameroon, as hosts will now require six world class stadiums and infrastructures in those cities – accommodation, transport, etc. Cameroon’s approved bid, which they prepared for was for four cities to host and in January and February. Now they have to find another two cities with stadia to suit and infrastructures within two years. The original budget is now inadequate – 50% more facilities than were planned and budgeted for are now needed.

The Cameroonian Federation, led by its President Tombo a Roko Sidiki, did not object to the changes and remain confident that it can meet the new demand. Cynics predict that the hidden agenda was for Morocco to step in as hosts if Cameroon can’t meet the new demand.

Future hosting may require shared hosting, which happened most recently five years ago with Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Only a few countries can realistically afford to host on their own, but the expansion will allow greater prospects for minnows to turn into contenders. For example, the Cape Verde Islands were a breath of fresh air recently. Smaller federations will have the opportunity to gain experience and develop competitiveness on the highest stage now. But moving it to June and July?

Summer Madness?

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Some supported moving the tournament to June. Among them was Algerian great Rabah Madjer and Cameroonian goalkeeper Joseph Antoine Bell. Madjer pointed out that North-African countries, Morocco and Tunisia fall victim to the humidity of January and in Algeria’s case despite technical excellence and preparation reach the quarter-final and then say goodbye.

Bell pointed out that moving to June wasn’t for Europeans, it was for Africans, but he also said that he thought some players didn’t mind losing as it meant they could return to their clubs. That appeared to contradict Bell’s claim that it wasn’t for Europeans. The temperature in Rabat was a minimum 25 degrees Celsius. It could get considerably hotter in other countries – and then there are the rains to consider. Was this really a decision made by Africans for Africans?

CAF’s Executive Committee agreed with the Workshop’s suggestions.

The Wind of Change

“We will respect the obligations of each and everyone,” Ahmad said. “This Congress is a constitutional one. It will remain historical”.

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Ahmad recognised that CAF members were impatient for change. “We will change the structures of CAF”, he said. “We will appoint new officials. We will respect new procedures to implement our programmes. It should be open to all African people. It’s going to happen”.

1 The new website of E-SL is under construction.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar July 24, 2017 16:33