By Brian Homewood
CAIRO (Reuters) – FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday that the unprecedented move to step in and jointly administer African football with the regional body CAF will “significantly improve” the sport on the continent.
Infantino also brushed aside suggestions that there was widespread opposition to the move which followed corruption allegations against CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.
FIFA is sending its Senegalese secretary general Fatma Samoura on a ninth-month secondment from August to overhaul CAF which has been plagued by chaos.
Infantino attended a CAF executive committee meeting on Wednesday where members were shown an 11-point plan.
Suggestions in the plan, seen by Reuters, included possible changes to the format of CAF competitions, a review of refereeing and a task force to improve stadium security.
Other points included a review of CAF’s judicial bodies, full transparency of money flows and implementation of good governance principles.
“What counts is that we decide to cooperate, that the highest FIFA administrator is coming to work with CAF…to improve African football significantly,” Infantino told reporters.
“This is about democracy. We take on board all comments of everyone and together we try to do our best. The only thing I ask is to judge on us on the results and not on speculation.”
Ahmad was reported in March to FIFA’s ethics committee by CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy, who was then fired.
Further allegations of fraud have recently been made against Ahmad, who was detained and questioned by French authorities in June as part of a corruption investigation.
Ahmad has denied wrongdoing in several media interviews but has not responded to repeated requests by Reuters for comment on the specific allegations against him.
FIFA has confirmed there is an ethics investigation into Ahmad, although he has not been suspended.
The second leg of the African Champions League final was abandoned in May in a row over the absence of the technology when it had been scheduled to be used.
When the referee disallowed an effort by Wydad Casablanca, they stormed off in protest that VAR had not been consulted, even though they had been told before the game that the system was not operational.
Their Tunisian opponents Esperance were initially declared champions but CAF then back-tracked and ordered a replay. Both clubs have since appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), asking to be declared champions.
The ongoing Africa Cup of Nations was only awarded to Egypt in January after the original hosts Cameroon were stripped of the right to stage the tournament.
CAF vice-president Amaju Pinnick said it was wrong to say that FIFA were taking over.
“We want to change the narrative from takeover to partnership and collaboration,” he said. “People just feel that they are taking over but it’s not the case.
“Basically, it’s to strengthen our judicial, our governance and our fiscal discipline…..its pure collaboration.”
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)