Since Ahmad Ahmad took the reign of CAF after eliminating his rival Issa Hayatou who governed CAF for 28 years, African football fans and clubs officials and national associations’ heads dreams changed hoping that the wind of change will be fruitful for African football, especially after suffering problems while having Hayatou in power. The ambitions in African football development became bigger with the curren president holding mottos of “Development and corruption fight” at his elections campaign. Each one hoped that Ahmad will get his continent’s governing body out from the problems of broadcasting exclusive rights for the competitions. Clubs and national associations officials are dreaming of much stronger competitions for clubs and national teams. The brilliance of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah came to prove that Africa has many talented players and that it can organize world class tournaments if it got rid of its long lasting problems.
“Al Masry Al Youm” met CAF President Ahmad Ahmad who spoke frankly on his ambitions, his vision for African football development. His answers were direct and strict about CAF role in helping African people to watch the World Cup. He spoke about the rumors of moving CAF headquarters from Egypt, his role in fighting corruption, and told us a surprise about Mohamed Salah, and his favorite Egyptian foods, the team he supports and other stuff in this interview.
Firstly, what did you achieve since being CAF President?
It has been 14 months since being in my office, and we faced many problems and challenges that we try to conquer for the good of African football. What bothers me now is the legal position of CAF in Egypt, and I talked to Mr. Khaled Abdel Aziz minister of youth and sports that we’d like CAF to follow international laws and not the Egyptian law. I thank him because he said he would like to help us to end this stuff.
What’s the difference for CAF to follow international laws or Egyptian ones?
We seek no advantages in following the international laws, but CAF is an international organization that includes 54 countries, so what would be the difference between CAF and Egyptian FA if we followed the Egyptian law?
You held the motto of change during your elections campaign. What did you achieve in this case?
It’s less than one and half years since my spell but we achieved many feats and we started the change in an organized way, either for the managerial body inside CAF or within the competitions and regulations which suits the change inside CAF and the ideology that we want to follow in the coming times. We changed 50-70% of personnel and regulations that we had approved in CAF last congress in Morocco. At the same time we hope to continue the change ways in the coming times regarding the signed contracts, including that of “La Gardere Sports” that lasts to the coming 12 years. We currently negotiate to revise the deal with the company’s officials.
Firstly I’d like to explain some very important thing, that I didn’t make this deal with the French company. The contract was done by the former president Issa Hayatou. But we’d like to change some items regarding the duration of the contract and holding the rights for all competitions, which needs some change according to the current negotiations.
How could you solve the difficult equation of giving African people the right to watch games, and your ambition of increasing CAF financial income in the future?
Let’s agree that our target is to increase CAF income in a regular way which will profit African football, and at the same time people have the right to watch games, but not in a way that affects CAF income, so it’s difficult to watch all the games for free.
What’s CAF role in helping African people to watch World Cup matches, especially for those who have their national teams playing in the Mundial?
We are actually negotiating FIFA in this issue, but with respecting regulations that govern FIFA, though this is not CAF responsibility but it’s the responsibility of the governments of those countries taking part in the World Cup.
What did you do to end the problem of bad match venues in Africa, that faces clubs and national teams in the various tournaments?
It’s not just the responsibility of CAF but also the role of governments and national associations to develop their football venues. Each government has to develop venues and for example Egypt has many good stadiums because its government wants to develop sports including football and other sports and give the youth chance to play sports in general and especially football. So it’s the governments’ responsibility to develop venues.
Is the increase of the number of qualified teams to African Cup of Nations a part of your continental football development plan?
The increase of national teams participating in AFCON and also the number of teams in CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup came as a wish of former stars and African football experts, and also media that recommended this in previous times.
Is this increase aiming to increase the football practice in Africa or just for financial income increase?
There are many advantages for this decision. Many great teams suffered from missing AFCON which decreased the tournament power, like when Egypt and Cameroon missed some editions recently. So increasing the number of teams will give more countries the chance to participate which will increase the level of competition. Also CAF includes 54 countries now so it’s normal to increase the number of participating teams.
What about increasing the number of African representatives in the World Cup after 2018?
In 2026 African representatives will increase to 9.5 spots which matches our will of change in CAF.
Mentioning 2026 World Cup, what will you do to help Morocco in their bid?
Helping Morocco in their 2026 bid is my obligation and one of my missions in the coming times. We contacted some African stars to help the bid including Samuel Eto’o and El Hadji Diouf.
Have you talked to Mohamed Salah for promoting Morocco 2026 bid?
No. CAF can’t force a player to promote or support any World Cup bid. What I ask Salah to do is to keep focused till he wins the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool against Real Madrid.
Who will you support in the UEFA Champions League final, Liverpool or Real Madrid?
It’s not a secret that I’m a Real Madrid fan, but I hope Liverpool wins, and I will pray for Salah and Sadio Mane to win the title.
How do you see Salah’s season with Liverpool, and would you advice him to stay there or move to another team?
Salah is the pride of Africa and Arab world, and a pride for me as current CAF president. I’m also amazed by the charity work he does and impressed by him. Staying with his team or moving is his own business with his agent as he sees his future.
Can Salah emulate what Liberia’s President George Weah did when he was the best player in the world in 1995?
If he won the Champions League with Liverpool and had good results with Egypt in the World Cup, he has the chance to repeat this feat.
How do you see African teams chance in the World Cup, and especially Egypt?
I don’t like predictions in football because it regards playing well on the pitch. CAF helped all African teams preparing for the World Cup either financially to get new equipment to help them preparing as we gave each team 500,000 US$ from CAF, and we urged FIFA to give every qualified team 2 million US$.
Some people fear that CAF headquarters will be moved from Egypt!
Firstly we never discussed this inside CAF, and there’s no intention to transfer the headquarters from Egypt. I was asked this question many times from Egyptian media. I have no power to move the headquarters as it has to decided by other national associations, and it’s something we never discussed.
How do you see applying Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in CAF competitions?
It’s almost impossible to apply VAR in all competitions, but it requires a decision from the Executive Committee. Some people say that CHAN is a weak competition because there’s no obligation for countries to take part in it so strong teams prefer not to play. CAF cannot force any country to take part in CHAN. It’s left to the countries to decide, and you should ask them not me.
What have you done regarding your “Fight against Corruption” motto? And will you go for the next elections?
At first I haven’t decided to go for the next elections or not, it’s too early for that. I’m continuing my program for fighting corruption till the very end.
Finally what’s your favorite Egyptian food?
There’s similarity between food in the countries I visited, but I love “Feteer” and “Um Ali”.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football