Ahmad Ahmad’s credibility falls as Caf ring the changes

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The Confederation of African Football are in danger of further alienating the continent’s football fans and stakeholders


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The Confederation of African Football continue to ring the changes to the continent’s football plans moving forward, and the governing body’s credibility is taking a further hit as a result.

Indeed, while President Ahmad Ahmad received much goodwill after replacing Issa Hayatou in March 2017, his decision-making is increasingly being called into question.

The blockbuster statement of his tenure so far has been to change the size and scheduling of the Africa Cup of Nations, which moved from January-February to June-July, and was expanded from 16 teams to 24.

While the decision had a populist angle on one hand, with more sides now able to qualify for the tournament, it had far-reaching consequences which are beginning to come home to roost.

Indeed, it’s hard to believe that Caf truly assessed all of the potential outcomes before the decision was taken.

Initially, the expansion appeared to leave Cameroon, who had already bid for and won the 2019 tournament, with a mountain to climb in order to prepare themselves to host an expanded event.

Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaounde

Amidst constant public doubting from Ahmad, the Central African nation were given various deadlines and repeatedly subjected to assessments from independent auditors Roland Berger in order to examine their viability as hosts.

The decision was finally taken on November 30 to strip them of the tournament, although it’s a conclusion that threatens to have far-reaching consequences.

Already, Caf have already alienated the Ivory Coast—previously announced as hosts for 2021—by stripping them of that tournament and offering it to Cameroon.

Ahmad is hardly ‘winning friends and influencing people’ now, is he?

“I’m sure we’ll get there,” the Malagasy football chief told journalists somewhat undiplomatically. “I’m convinced that the great Ivorian leaders will listen to their compatriots who manage the preparation of the CAN.

“They will realize that it was the CAF that was right.”

However, the West African nation shed a different light on Ahmad's comments.

“No Ivorian state authority, nor any leader of the federation, has been contacted or approached by CAF,” the federation said, as per Inside Football.

Cote d’Ivoire and Tottenham Hotspur right-back Serge Aurier will also take some convincing.

Serge Aurier Tottenham

“I’m shocked, I do not understand this decision,” he told Canal+. “For me, it’s a disaster, a matter of politicians.

“It’s a shame, it’s a stupid decision. As a player, we want this AFCON in 2021 in our country.”

As well as alienating Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, Ahmad also has another problem on his hands, with viable last-minute candidates for the 2019 event seemingly hard to come by.

Speaking to Le Matin, Ahmad was bullish about the prospect of an African host emerging for the troubled Afcon, even if time is running out for an already reducing field of potential venues to confirm their availability before the December 15 deadline.

Morocco have already ruled themselves out as hosts, although Egypt—itself a troubled potential destination—have hinted that they could throw their hat into the ring.

South Africa are emerging as favourites for the tournament, and appear to be the only nation to have officially submitted their documents to Caf.

On Wednesday, Caf confirmed that the executive committee had decided to play the 2018 Super Cup—which pits Champions League winners Esperance against Confederation Cup holders Raja Casablanca—in Qatar, at a currently unspecified date and time.

Esperance Tunis CAF Champions 09112018

It’s a decision that’s yet to be truly explained, but is a rare move, with the fixture traditionally played at the home of the Champions League holders.

The Tunisian giants are, understandably, furious with the decision, not least because of what the game could have signified.

"This is our 100th anniversary,” a former spokesman for the Esperance Ultras told BBC Sport, “and we want to play this game here.”

Ultimately, short-term or long-term, Caf’s motivation will surely be fiscal, or potentially repayment for Qatar’s support of Morocco’s World Cup bid, but it risks alienating the continent’s football stakeholders.

As with the Afcon decision, it’s a commitment that could have knock-on consequences, and expect calls to increase for Caf to replace the two-legged Champions League and Confed Cup finals with one-off matches in neutral venues.

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Similarly, and more broadly speaking, could Qatar also emerge as another unlikely solution for Caf?

With few viable candidates to host next year’s Afcon, time running out, and relationships with the Gulf apparently strengthening, could a Qatari Nations Cup suit various parties?

Not the fans, perhaps, not the public, maybe, nor local journalists, but you suspect that a certain executive committee somewhere would be quietly pleased with that outcome.

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