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Ahmad Ahmad: The Day After

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A pair of blue jean trousers upon a grey top, he looked every inch an island boy waiting to see how the ocean tides will subside. Self effacing and exuding trademark simplicity   at the lounge of Sheraton Hotel Addis Ababa Friday morning it was easy to miss the latest sheriff in the house of African football.

This was a day after the hurricane from the island of Madagascar virtually swept away the old order of leadership and ushered in a fresh feel of youth and perhaps adventure in the house of Africa’s most cherished game

“What has pleased me the most is the victory of democracy through football in Africa”, confessed Ahmad Ahmad, an accomplished politician and former cabinet minister in Madagascar.

All those who stormed the City of Flowers, Addis Ababa, for the 60th anniversary celebration and 39th General Assembly of the Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF) may have left for home with pieces of varied memories of a day that changed the outlook of the administration of the game in the continent.

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But did they anticipate or envisage the magnitude of the storm that would rock the continental body with headquarters in Cairo Egypt?

Definitely the ever last lion from Cameroon and one time President of FIFA on acting capacity, Issa Hayatou, had no fear of the raging roar of change.

For 29 years he had held sway as CAF president like a charmed knight in a tournament, riding through little hurdles and providing a shield for a band of passionate adherents in the power corridor.

The days before the election provided opportunities to further pad his victory calculations and drag in to his fold those still undecided. He was in good company during the landmark launch of Ethiopia’s pacesetting St George’s FC Academy, named after his predecessor Yidnekatchew Tessema as well as the screening of a film capturing the best of African football in the last 60 years of CAF.

There was also the CAF forum which had many distinguished sports personalities including the FIFA president Gianni Infantino. But many delegates who perceived the event as a design to distract them from their electoral mission opted to stay away.

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The subjects tackled were meant for the education and enlightenment of the delegates but they were not impressed. It was a signal of the gathering storm.

Not even the brilliant sunshine Thursday could open up the thoughts of those who had been at work in the last three   months, crisscrossing the continent to extract commitments and pledges to confront a colossus in African football leadership.

From birthday party to meetings and personal visits across many cities within and outside the continent the Ahmed coalition had found a united front and fully charged by the padding from the FIFA boss who told all that he believed in Africa which represents a phenomenal future of the game if well managed.

Truly, so March 16 provided a fresh vista of the game’s management and direction. For sure the women also had a heavy dose of politicking and one of them, Isha Johansen of Sierra Leone, won a seat in the CAF executive committee by beating another tested hand Lydia Nsekera of Burundi.

The embrace from the two ladies after the result announcement inside the magnificent AU Plenary Hall captured the imagination of many who witnessed the march into a new dispensation.

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Fair play and transparency reigned throughout the conduct of the election and any tinge of bitterness or disappointment will be kept in little corners of their hearts.

The outgoing president no doubt gave a solid fight and in the days ahead he says he will be ready to share his experiences and give support in the transition period.

Friday morning he looked radiant in his royal purple outfit and betrayed no sign of an embattled leader. He had moment to rub minds with his key lieutenants most of whom suffered defeats and now had to accept the reality of sports which has winners and losers.

More telling will be how the Ahmad leadership approaches his inclusive governance agenda and fashions his team to imbibe the change mantra with an eye on the reforms flowing from Zurich.

“I want to have a house of football that belongs to you”. Ahmad had pledged before the elections that gave him 34 votes as against Hayatou’s 20.

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From his campaign style one can deduce the strength of a leader who is methodic and strategic in weaving a consensus that he adopts with a missionary zeal.

He appears to adjust to moments as they affect his objective. His combative speech before the election and his populist delivery showed a character ready to carry the task and burden of change.

Indeed he will have to match the great expectations of the soccer mad populace with the reality of a pragmatic revenue seeking programme that may not hurt the existing contractual deals on television rights, sponsorship and marketing for which a simmering fight for control may be too hot to handle or ignore.

The world is watching and it is clear that his victory was a relief to those who overtime continue to remind Africa that the future of the game belongs to you.

Just go out there and seize it. Easy words to say but it is hard not to take to heart the message of Hayatou who reminds all with emphasis that Africa must fashion its own destiny and vision. The tide of election is over. It is time for the Island boy Ahmad to make us glad with a World Cup chase for the continent.

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FROM MITCHELL OBI, AIPS AFRICA PRESIDENT, Addis Ababa.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.

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  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.

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  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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International Football

Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal

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Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.

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An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.

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The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.

Reuters

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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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