CAF President Ahmad Ahmad will have strong character to make changes at the African soccer body. Photo: AP Photo

JOHANNESBURG – A desperate man doesn’t think much about the day after tomorrow because he might not live long enough to see it.

He is too preoccupied with how to survive today and make tomorrow more pleasant if possible.

Desperation has seen many political movements make deals with the devil in order to remove an oppressive regime.

The problem with making deals with the devil is that it costs you your soul and he always comes to collect.

I couldn’t help but think of this analogy when looking at Ahmad Ahmad, the president of the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

There was a huge campaign to oust Issa Hayatou, who had ruled the organisation like a dictator for 29 years.

His removal from the presidency was a welcome relief as the organisation needed fresh blood and not a dinosaur who was incapable of moving with the times.

Ahmad had a solid foundation to start his tenure with clubs and countries across the continent happy with the increase in financial rewards for doing well in the Caf Champions League, Caf Confederation Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations.

But Ahmad’s biggest problem is the number of people who pushed him to the presidency which means he owes too many people and will struggle to be his own man with his own voice.

His silence has been deafening with regard to the number of incidents that have affected African football – from Fifa’s landmark decision to replay a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal due to allegations of match manipulation, to accusations of widespread bribing of referees in Ghana, and the Sierra Leone Football Association elections that were postponed indefinitely at one point with a number of corruption allegations and counter-allegations.

Heck, Mali’s national Under-17 team were blatantly cheated out of a place in the World Cup final when a legitimate goal was disallowed. Ahmad was as silent as the crusaders of the introduction of goal-line technology in major tournaments when the victims were Europeans.

It’s still early into Ahmad’s tenure, but he needs to find his voice quick and drive the African agenda if he is to be a success.

We shouldn’t just celebrate the overthrowing of a dictator and not hold his replacement accountable. There are many things that need to change at Caf.

The first one is changing the make-up of the staff to represent the continent and all the regions that make up Africa.

At the moment, the staff is predominantly North African, with a strong dominance of administrators from Arabic countries.

That make-up is what fuels the perception that certain North African teams can get away with murder.

We should get to a point where “this is Africa” is simply not a good enough response to why a visiting team was treated badly.

Caf have been so quiet on this that it’s become acceptable. With more money invested into the game, there needs to be more accountability. 

Teams shouldn’t get away with throwing missiles on the pitch in the continent’s premier club competitions.

Firefighters furiously put out flares that were thrown on to Stade Olympique de Rades by disgruntled Club Africain fans during their loss to SuperSport United in the Confederation Cup semi-final. 

A hefty sentence should be meted out for such dangerous acts to stamp it out of the game.

I am not saying that flares should be banned from stadiums. They are some of the things that make the game colourful, and why visiting teams like Esperance and Al-Ahly is an experience and a half. 

But when lives are at risk, action should be taken against the perpetrators.

I was pleasantly surprised when ES Setif were kicked out of the Champions League due to the behaviour of their fans who invaded the pitch in their match against Mamelodi Sundowns. This shouldn’t be an exception, but the norm in rooting out hooliganism and improving our game.

Teams that conquer the continent defy a lot of odds to do so, from the flights to playing on below-par pitches and doing all of this while also fulfilling their domestic duties.

Things like not being given proper training stadiums, accommodation and being given run-down buses for transport should be things of the past. These are some of the things that the new Caf leadership should change.

Yes, we are grateful that Hayatou has been replaced. 

But that’s just the start of the work that lies ahead for Ahmad if he wants to be remembered as more than just the guy who replaced Hayatou.


Saturday Star

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