Ahmad, allies must walk the talk

IN his aptly-titled book, FOUL!, British journalist Andrew Jennings ventures into the dark world of multi-million dollar corruption, laying bare the deep power struggles and rampant laundering in global football politics.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

It is a most damning exposure of the ugliest side of the beautiful game, in particular the governing body of the sport in the world, Fifa.

In exposing what really takes place in the dark corners and corridors of world football, the African game’s leadership — then under the stewardship of defeated supremo Issa Hayatou — is not spared Jennings’s piercing investigative lenses.

Now, just two months after the fall of Hayatou, African football has a breath of fresh air about it and a chance to start on a clean slate.

The new Confederation of African Football (Caf) president, Ahmad Ahmad, is making all the right noises.

He promised financial transparency and upholding ethics during his election campaign that ended Hayatou’s 29-year-old reign, and says he will stick to his promises throughout his tenure.

And he appears to be on the right track, too, a symbol of the winds of change blowing across the African football landscape.

Only this week, he pulled off a smart publicity stunt by announcing he has refused to accept a salary as Caf president.

That is all very well.

The past, though, has taught many of us in Africa to always take what comes out of the mouths of our new leaders with a pinch, if not packet, of salt. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions.

A Caf salary is only but a small fraction of football funds Ahmad has access to. As the boss of football in Africa, a Fifa vice-president and Fifa Council member — he not only has control over multi-million dollar deals, but also of 34 crucial African votes.

The 34 federation votes that swept him into power in March are sufficient to influence crucial decisions at Fifa.

Take for instance, when the very controversial and much-maligned Jack Warner led the Concacaf regional body.

He effectively and cunningly used his iron-grip of that region to garner support for Sepp Blatter and ensure the disgraced Swiss’s prolonged stay as world soccer boss.

Hayatou, at some point, did the same in Africa for his boss in Zurich.

We could be headed for the same scenario if we are not careful.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has the back of Ahmad. He supported his candidature for the Caf presidency and even came to Harare for his campaign bash.

The temptation for Ahmad and his close allies at Caf — who include our own Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa — is to become the fix-it or hatchet men in Africa for the Infantino administration and take us back to the Blatter era — a corrupt regime that had outlived its welcome and usefulness by the time it fell.

This should not happen again.

The different Caf members, as stated by South African federation boss Danny Jordaan, a few months ago, must now take ownership of the continental body in the post-Hayatou era, allowed to think independently and have a say in how the game is governed on the continent.

This is a particularly refreshing and calming statement coming from a key member of Ahmad’s inner circle.

Jordaan, like his president Ahmad, also preached the gospel of transparency.

I would also like to hear the same transparency mantra from Chiyangwa, who was this week appointed vice-chairman of the Africa Cup of Nations organising committee. It is a powerful position in the game; awarding the continent’s biggest football competition every two years, and running it too — often an irresistible allure for those who love kickbacks and ill-gotten riches.

Only when Ahmad and his men resist these temptations will they take us beyond the controversial Hayatou era and be seen as different and progressive.

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