Without offering an explanation, cash-strapped Caf has removed a valid proposal from the Zambian FA to cut costs. The reason why is closely related to Gianni Infantino’s fight for re-election.
By Philippe Auclair
Caf, who will hold its 44th ordinary general assembly on 10 August in Tanzania, has mysteriously withdrawn from its agenda a proposal by the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) which would save millions of dollars for the quasi-bankrupt confederation. Why? Information received by Josimar strongly suggests that the motivations for Caf’s refusal to discuss the Zambian motion are primarily political: its terms would weaken the growing stranglehold of Caf president Patrice Motsepe on the organisation, eight months before his close ally Gianni Infantino seeks re-election at the head of Fifa.
Gianni Infantino almost jumped the gun. On 30 March of this year, in a statement published in, of all places, Qatar’s capital Doha, secretary general Fatma Samoura called for candidates to Fifa’s 2023 presidential election to get going. Almost immediately printed endorsement forms were sent out by Fifa minions to football officials in Europe and South America, with instructions to send them back, once filled out of course, to Samoura.
Infantino’s ally Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigerian Football Federation and former vice-president of Caf’s executive committee, was also circulating these forms and even boasted of his role as Infantino’s cheerleader-in-chief to one of Josimar’s sources. According to this source, Pinnick had said that Africa’s support for Infantino’s candidacy was guaranteed, giving Infantino 54 votes out of the 106 he needed to ensure a majority. The election will take place in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on 16 March 2023.
It looked as if African football, which had seen its reticent (and deeply compromised) president Ahmad Ahmad forced out of power in late November 2020 by a timely, if belated, intervention by Fifa’s ethics committee, was firmly siding with the man who seized his opportunity to lead world football’s governing body when Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were taken out of the equation in the autumn of 2015.
Closer to bankruptcy
Yet, this doesn’t seem to have been enough. Any sign of disobedience within Caf must be quashed instantly, as it was when the Zambian FA came up with an idea which, in their view, could save Caf a significant amount of money.
Heaven knows that African football could do with a few dollars more. The audited accounts of its confederation for the year ending 30 June 2021, which were finalised at the beginning of this month, and which Josimar has had access to, make for grim reading. Caf, who threw away a 1 billion US dollars contract with media rights giant Lagardère on Fifa’s orders in 2019, is getting ever closer to bankruptcy.
Josimar can reveal that the loss registered by Caf in 2020-21 amounted to 44.7 million US dollars, nearly four times what it had been in the previous exercise, whilst the Confederation’s reserves were almost slashed by half, with 44.6 million dollars vanishing in a single year. Moreover, its liabilities increased to the tune of 11,7 million dollars and its ‘general and administration expenses’ rose by a fifth in the same period.
Yet Caf carries on spending an estimated 12.5 million US dollars per annum on its bloated executive committee, whose costly meetings can now be attended by the presidents of the six African football regional federations (*) as well as by the twenty-two members of the ExCo, plus president Motsepe and two co-opted ‘advisors’: a grand total of thirty-one people whose generous expenses and compensations must be paid by the impoverished organisation.
FAZ, presided by Andrew Kamanga since 2016, had not had access yet to these catastrophic accounts when, on 12 May of this year, it submitted a proposal to discuss an overhaul of Caf’s executive committee at the forthcoming AGM.
The aim of this proposal was two-fold: to significantly reduce the operational costs of Caf’s Executive Committee, and to rebalance its make-up, so that all six ‘zones’ of the confederation would have equal representation at executive level, both at Caf and Fifa, as the African continent has seven seats on the Fifa council, the de facto cabinet of president Gianni Infantino.
To achieve the first of these objectives, the new-look executive committee of Caf would be composed of twelve members, plus the confederation’s president, that is thirteen in total, ten fewer members than is the case at present. The number of Caf vice-presidents would also be reduced from five to two. To achieve the second objective, each of the six African regional associations would be given equal status and be allotted two seats, when COSAFA and WAFU currently have five on the ExCo – three more than UNIFFAC and CECafA. Furthermore, each of the six regions would provide one representative to sit on the Fifa council, when UNIFFAC and CECafA, again, have none right now.
As the Zambians had respected the timetable drawn by Caf secretary general Véron Mosengo-Omba in April and filed their motion with the confederation by the cut-out date of 12 May, a copy being sent to president Motsepe’s office, Caf had to include their proposal on the agenda that was circulated to all African federations on 8 June.
However, according to information received by Josimar, this did not prevent Mosengo-Omba from personally asking the Zambians to withdraw their motion as it would create “a political storm” within Caf. FAZ refused to back down. Caf had to include their proposal in the agenda, and did, but not for long.
First, the document Caf communicated to its Member Associations (MA) specified that the Zambian motion, whilst “in conformity with Article 17 Para. 8” of the Fifa statutes, was “not in conformity with Article 19 Para. 2”, which requires any proposal to alter the statutes of the confederation to be supported by at least two Member Associations.
This came as a surprise to the Zambians, who had not asked for an alteration of the statutes to be voted on at the AGM, but simply for a discussion on the merit of their suggestion to be held on the one occasion all African FAs are gathered. Article 19 Para. 2 did not apply in their view.
Within twenty-four hours, a new, revised agenda had been put together; and there was no sign of the Zambian proposal on it.
No explanation was given. Neither did Caf circulate the full text of the Zambian proposal to the other FAs as it ought to have done.
In Fifa’s interest
The question is: why would Caf prevent one of its members to table a motion which, if approved, could save millions of dollars for a confederation that is on the brink of financial collapse? And what kind of potential ‘political storm’ was Mosengo-Omba referring to when he advised the Zambians to withdraw their proposal of their own accord?
While it is obvious that some of the current members of Caf’s executive committee would stand to lose their well-remunerated positions if their number was reduced from twenty-two to twelve, others would stand to gain, starting with the under-represented Central African and East-central African regions, who account for 19 of Caf’s 54 member associations – yet have no representative on the Fifa Council.
How can it be right that UNAF, the North African zone, which groups a mere five countries – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt – has four seats on Caf’s Executive Committee and two on the Fifa Council when CECafA, with its eleven members (*), has respectively two and none?
But there lies part of the problem. Some of Caf’s biggest hitters hail from the North African zone, namely Moroccan Faouzi Lekjaa, Tunisian Wadii Jary and the seemingly indestructible Egyptian Hany Abo Rida, a survivor from the Blatter and Hayatou era who has somehow managed to walk between the raindrops in every storm or hurricane ever to hit Caf and Fifa over the last twenty years. Two of these big beasts, who all have a community of interests with the current Caf and Fifa administrations, would probably have to relinquish their positions.
It is also not in the interest of Caf’s current regime, or in Fifa’s, which is saying much the same thing since Patrice Motsepe was installed in the president’s chair, to have a smaller, leaner Caf Executive Committee. As one African FA president told Josimar, “everyone first looks after himself. The more people you install in a position where they can claim many benefits as long as they do what they’re told, the more people you can control” – and rely on to make the correct choice when their turn comes to endorse a candidate or to vote, for the Fifa presidential election, for example.
After all, it is far easier to manage a group of some thirty well-rewarded individuals than to balance the interests of fifty-four football federations. The Zambian-proposed downsizing of Caf’s executive body would go against the grain in this regard, when Caf has actually expanded the size of its executive committee by inviting regional presidents to attend its meetings – and get paid for it.
In private, a number of African football dignitaries can see the validity of at least discussing the merits of the Zambian motion, given the disastrous situation of Caf’s finances. In public, despite what two of Africa’s six regions would stand to gain if it were adopted down the line, nobody has yet dared to support it openly. Such is the control which Motsepe and Fifa now intend to exert on African football affairs that even discussing the possibility of change is out of bounds.
The Zambian federation hasn’t given up on its plans yet. On 25 July, they wrote to Patrice Motsepe, asking the Caf president to intervene and reinstate their motion in the Caf AGM’s agenda. No reply has been forthcoming yet.
Caf General Secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba and President Patrice Motsepe were contacted for comment before publishing
On 29 July Veron Mosengo-Omba replied the following:
Thank you for your message, I will revert to you asap
(*) UNAF (North Africa), WAFU and UFOA (Western Africa), UNIFFAC (Central Africa), CECafA (East-central Africa), and COSAFA (Southern Africa).
(*) Zanzibar, whilst still a member of CECafA, had its membership of Caf rescinded in July 2017, just four months after it had been accepted as a member.