CAF plunged into further crisis as general secretary resigns

Mouad Hajji, former general secretary of the CAF, speaks at a conference in Cairo, Egypt, July 18, 2019. /VCG
Mouad Hajji, former general secretary of the CAF, speaks at a conference in Cairo, Egypt, July 18, 2019. /VCG

The Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) general secretary Mouad Hajji resigned on Monday, plunging the continent’s soccer governing body into further crisis.

Hajji’s departure after less than a year in the job was confirmed by CAF, who said he was quitting for personal reasons.

He leaves amid much turbulence in the African game.

Hajji, a former Moroccan government official and a trained dentist, took over last April from Amr Fahmy, who was fired after submitting evidence to FIFA’s ethics committee of alleged misappropriation of funds by CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.

The ethics committee of soccer’s world governing body confirmed investigating the allegation but more than a year later no action has been taken against Ahmad, who was also questioned by French police last June.

Ahmad has denied any wrongdoing.

Ahmad, days after being taken in for questioning in Paris about an equipment supplier deal involving a close associate and CAF, agreed to allow FIFA to send its general secretary Fatma Samoura to Cairo for six months to help restructure the organisation and sort out its finances.

An independent review of the running of CAF by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), seen by Reuters last month, found “potential elements of mismanagement” and “possible abuse of power” amidst concern about widespread use of cash payments.

FIFA’s Samoura restructured much of CAF, including controversially exiting a lucrative television deal which has meant that none of African football’s major matches over the last month have been shown by major broadcasters.

However, CAF did not agree to Samoura staying on when its executive committee met in Morocco last month, which angered FIFA president Gianni Infantino according to sources close to the African soccer body.

The decision not to allow Samoura to continue came after Infantino had suggested more sweeping reforms for the African game, including a super league for Africa’s top clubs in what could be a test case for the future of other continents.

CAF has not yet approved any of Infantino’s plan and the sources close to the African organization say Ahmad, who is also a FIFA vice president, is on a collision course with Infantino.

“I would like to warmly thank President Ahmad Ahmad for giving me the opportunity to serve the football of our continent at such a level of responsibility,” Hajji said in a statement.

Ahmad said Hajji’s work had been invaluable in driving the CAF reforms.

“I would like to salute a committed, loyal and above all passionate football player, and wish him all the success he deserves in the rest of his career,” the CAF statement quoted Ahmad as saying.

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris