His vitriolic remarks on Cameroon’s ability to organise the next tournament have sparked a lively controversy. The president of CAF explains, and evokes the reform of this emblematic appointment.

Between a meeting in Cairo, a trip to Burkina Faso – “a country that does not have many resources but has done a lot for football” – and another in Ethiopia, the new boss of African football, Ahmad Ahmad , 57, found time to receive Jeune Afrique. This native of Mahajanga, president since 2003 of the Malagasy Football Federation, succeeded in March Cameroonian Issa Hayatou.

Jeune Afrique: Four months after your election in March, the Executive Committee of CAF validated the expansion of the AFCON to 24 teams, as well as its programming in June-July starting in 2019 (see also JA 2951) . What do you say to those who feel that this deadline is too short, especially for Cameroon, the next organising country?

Ahmad Ahmad: First of all, I would like to recall that I was elected on the basis of a program that included this reform.My mission is to apply it, and quickly. It is a question of coherence. Since the will was there, why wait?

Cameroon, which had signed for a AFCON with 16 teams, must adapt to a new specification, and the least we can say is that you are intransigent …

I will be uncompromising with Cameroon as I will be with Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea for the 2021 and 2023 AFCONs. We can no longer afford to organize African Nations Cups where the fields are in bad condition, where medical services are inadequate, where hotels do not match the standards of the players … If a particular State is unable to host a final phase, a new call for tenders will be issued. Missions will be conducted by an audit firm in the organising countries, with specialists assisted by CAF technicians. This will avoid external political influences.

During your recent trip to Ouaga, you have not been tender with the Cameroonians, explicitly questioning their ability to organise the competition …

Several times, a reporter asked me about it. I simply replied that to date none of the Cameroonian sites was ready. But my answer was valid when he asked me the question. An inspection mission will visit Cameroon from 20 to 28 August. I thank this reporter for asking this question, because if my answer caused a certain media hype it also boosted the government, national pride obliges. Let me remind you that CAF has already wished to organize inspection missions in recent months, but each time Cameroon has asked for a postponement.
It is according to the specifications, revised after the reform of the competition, that our executive committee will make its decision. Even if I do not want the AFCON to be played in Cameroon, I can not oppose it if it meets the new specifications.

Morocco is presented as a remedy, in the event that Cameroon fails …

This country has all the necessary infrastructure to organize AFCON. But today Cameroon has been chosen.

Your predecessor, Issa Hayatou, said that he would be at your disposal to support you. Are you in touch with him?

He made this statement to journalists, not to me. To this day, I have had no news of him. If he proposes to me, I will not refuse his help because he has a solid expertise. After my election, I said that I was willing to work with relatives. Some have accepted the principle, others have not. Among the latter, there are some who have pretended, in a small committee, that I was crying for help. In the media, I also had fairly sharp criticism from members of the old team. I even heard that a Malagasy should not lead CAF!

Your organisation has the reputation of doing well, financially speaking …

It’s the case. But I think that the money raised has not been sufficiently reinvested for the benefit of African football. How many federations are really well organised? In my opinion, only about ten.

Did the previous governance fail because of lack of audacity?

It has done some important reforms, but I still believe that more is needed. Clearly, a generational question arose. I think that we can not remain for twenty or thirty years at the head of an institution, which is why I defended the principle of a limitation to three successive mandates.


Translated from Jeune Afrique