Following recent governance issues and corruption controversies in African football, Fifa, the world’s football governing body has, in an unprecedented move, taking over management of the game on the continent.
FIFA said Thursday that its secretary general, Fatma Samoura, has been appointed ‘Fifa General Delegate for Africa,’ a newly-appointed role that seeks to improve governance in African football.
Samoura, from Senegal, will be in control for six months from August 1, with the relationship “renewable with the agreement of both organisations”.
“It was also agreed that Fifa and Caf will undertake as soon as possible a full forensic audit of Caf,” a joint statement from FIFA and CAF said.
The decision, which came on the eve of the kickoff of the Africa Cup of Nations, has been seen as a surprise by many. Analysts say that it is, however, a confirmation that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – the continent’s top soccer body – has been unable to deal with the many issues that have cropped up in recent times.
CAF has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times. Early this month, the president of CAF, Ahmad Ahmad, was questioned by French authorities as part of an inquiry into corruption, breach of trust and forgery. The 59-year-old was later released without charge and has dismissed the allegations as “false”.
Issues were also raised when the recent African Champions League final was marred following a boycott that was caused by a failure of the VAR system. Critics further raised concerns that related to the rescheduling of the timing of 2019, 2021 and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Following these issues, Ahmad proposed the idea of seeking FIFA’s expertise to help assess CAF’s current situation and speed up reforms plans aimed at ensuring the organisation operates with transparency and efficiency, the AFP reports.
56-year-old Samoura will remain secretary general of FIFA but will delegate various functions to others. Her job will cover a lot of areas, including overseeing the operational management of CAF, ensuring the “efficient and professional organisation of all CAF competitions”, and supporting the growth and development of football in all African regions.
These roles, which will run until 31 January, were approved unanimously by CAF’s Executive Committee, according to the statement.
Even though Fifa is used to appointing what has been described as ‘Normalisation Committees’ to oversee member associations that need help with administration and other issues, it is rare for the global football governing body to assist a confederation in similar difficulties, the BBC reports.
Although CAF has welcomed the latest move, tension is brewing among all regional confederation leaders who form the FIFA bureau over the arrangement. Aleksander Čeferin, president of UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, has raised issues about the legality of the move.
He wrote in a letter seen by AFP that the appointment “raises a large number of questions and in particular the likelihood conflict of interests”.
“It is inconceivable to send a letter in the middle of the night (received at 1:50 this morning) and expect a response from me by 10:30 the same day. I am always prepared to help, but the FIFA bureau of the council must not be reduced to a mere rubber stamp function,” he wrote.
“Never in the history of our institutions has the secretary general … been placed on secondment to take control of a confederation, even with the latter’s consent. You must understand that this is not the type of decision to be taken lightly and in haste.”
Meanwhile, FIFA, which is yet to explain why Ahmad remains in power despite an ongoing ethics investigation, said Samoura’s move is necessary to “bring stability, serenity, professionalism and effective football development on the African continent where the passion for football is so prevalent.”
At the moment, observers are anxious to see what the Senegalese top football administrator would bring to the table, considering the Africa Cup of Nations is just about to kick off in Egypt.
Samoura took over her job as FIFA secretary general from Jerome Valcke in May 2016, who was found guilty of misconduct and sacked in June 2016.
Many welcomed Samoura’s appointment: she was going to be the first woman to hold FIFA’s second-most powerful post.
Critics, however, raised questions about whether Samoura was going to succeed considering she had no previous sporting experience.
Others also wanted to know why FIFA had taken so long to bring a woman or a non-European on its executive.
FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino had this to say about Samoura when she was given the role.
“Fatma is a woman with international experience and vision who has worked on some of the most challenging issues of our time,” he said.
“She has a proven ability to build and lead teams, and improve the way organisations perform. She also understands that transparency and accountability are at the heart of any well-run and responsible organisation.”