Madagascar’s Ahmad has been dramatically restored as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president following a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Ahmad was banned by FIFA in November for five years after football’s world governing body found him to have breached several of its ethics codes. Ahmad is still ineligible to contest CAF’s presidential elections in March however, since the CAS decision came after both CAF’s Governance and FIFA’s Review committees sat earlier this week to approve candidates’ eligibility. The Malagasy – who will now resume his role as a FIFA vice-president – is appealing his ban at CAS, which issued a preliminary ruling on Friday. Sport’s highest legal body says it will hear the appeal in full on 2 March, with a decision issued before the CAF presidential elections on 12 March. “Due to a risk of irreparable harm for Mr Ahmad if the disciplinary sanction is maintained during the period prior to the CAF elections, the CAS panel has upheld the request to temporarily stay the effects of the [FIFA ban],” CAS said in a statement. This effective suspension of the FIFA ruling will be in place ‘until the day that the final CAS award is issued’. Since he was banned when FIFA met on Tuesday and CAF on Thursday to vet presidential aspirants, Ahmad was deemed ineligible. He will now need to overturn the decisions ruling him ineligible to run, since his appeal at CAS is not against the decision barring him from contesting the elections but against his FIFA ban. Should CAS uphold FIFA’s ban when its hearing takes place in early March, Ahmad will be ruled out of the race once and for all. Yet if he can overturn both his ineligibility and his FIFA sanction, a man who was proclaiming the backing of 46 federations, out of 54, shortly before his ban will have the chance to secure an unlikely comeback. As of this week, four candidates were cleared to run for the CAF elections in Morocco on 12 March: Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Patrice Motsepe (South Africa), Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania). Ahmad’s stay of execution is uncommon, says a sports lawyer with working knowledge of the Switzerland-based CAS. “The CAS rarely issues a preliminary decision suspending the effects of a sanction to ban someone from football,” said Paolo Torchetti of Ruiz-Huerta & Crespo Sport Lawyers. FIFA adjudged Ahmad, who took charge of CAF in 2017, to have broken ethics rules relating to duty of loyalty, the offering and accepting gifts, abuse of position and misappropriation of funds. These were primarily related to a decision to approve deals totalling $4.4m with a French company run by a close friend of Ahmad’s then attaché and the financing of a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia for Africa’s Muslim FA presidents.