FIFA is attempting to clean up African soccer by taking the unprecedented move of placing secretary general Fatma Samoura in a new role running the sport’s governing body on the continent.
As FIFA General Delegate for Africa for an initial six month period from August, Samoura will be based in Cairo to lead what is describes as a “full forensic audit” of the Confederation of African Football.
The remarkable intervention by FIFA President Gianni Infantino into one of the six regional confederations was opposed by UEFA leader Aleksander Ceferin over concerns about conflicts of interests with Samoura remaining FIFA secretary general in name and the lack of time given to grant approval.
The decision is being portrayed by FIFA as having the backing of CAF President Ahmad, who is mired in allegations of personal and financial impropriety.
The Madagascan was taken in for questioning by French authorities while attending a FIFA meeting in Paris two weeks ago. Ahmad, who goes by one name, was released without being charged but he is under FIFA ethics investigation while remaining a vice president of the organization.
FIFA said Samoura “will be assisted by a group of experts who will work in a spirit of partnership with President Ahmad” while overseeing CAF operations, including governance and administrative procedures, and competitions. The move was announced on the eve of the African Cup of Nations opening in Cairo with Egypt playing Zimbabwe on Friday.
FIFA said it wants to “bring stability, serenity, professionalism and effective football development on the African continent where the passion for football is so prevalent.”
FIFA claims Ahmad backed Samoura’s appointment to “conclusively accelerate the implementation of the ongoing reform process destined to ensure that CAF functions with transparency, efficiency while abiding to the highest governance standards.” CAF has yet to provide details of the “reform process.”
Infantino provided details of Samoura’s proposed role in a letter early Thursday to the Bureau of the FIFA Council, which features the regional confederation leaders who serve as vice presidents of the global governing body.
While Samoura would retain her position of secretary general, Infantino told members of the FIFA Bureau that she “will delegate her functions within the FIFA administration in accordance with the relevant internal regulations.”
Samoura’s role could be extended beyond the six months with the approval of FIFA and CAF.
Ceferin said Infantino’s proposal was received at 1:50 a.m. Thursday and a response was sought by 10:30 a.m.
“I cannot be expected to have your proposal examined by UEFA’s legal team or consult the European members of the FIFA Council on a subject of such great importance in a mere 90 minutes,” Ceferin wrote to Infantino in a letter seen by The Associated Press. “Never in the history of our institutions has the FIFA Secretary General, who under the FIFA Statutes leads the organization, been placed on secondment to take control of a confederation, even with the latter’s consent.”
Ceferin said Samoura becoming FIFA General Delegate for Africa while retaining the title of secretary general “raises a large number of questions and in particular the likelihood of conflicts of interest” as well doubts over whether it complies with the statutes of FIFA and the CAF.
“You must understand that this is not the type of decision to be taken lightly and in haste,” Ceferin wrote. “Without our legal analysis of the situation and a consultation of the European members of the FIFA Council, I am not at liberty to approve the proposal you put forward.”
Samoura, a Senegalese former United Nations official, became FIFA’s first female secretary general in 2016 after Infantino’s election.
Ceferin has asked Infantino for an “accurate description of the role and powers of the FIFA General Delegate for Africa, an accurate description of the way FIFA would function in her absence.”
“At this stage, I am not in possession of enough information or assurances on this subject to be able to approve the proposal,” Ceferin wrote to Infantino. “For these various reasons, I am sure you will fully understand that, in the current state of affairs and without additional information from you, I cannot approve the proposal set out in your letter sent to the FIFA Bureau of the Council members to appoint a FIFA General Delegate for Africa.”
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