FIFA pressures Anouma who denies government funding and continues on campaign trail

By Paul Nicholson

March 2 – CAF presidential candidate Jacques Anouma (pictured) has responded to a request from the head of the FIFA Governance Committee Mukul Mukdal saying that he has not received any funding for his election campaign from the Ivory Coast government.

Mukdal wrote to Anouma February 26 questioning reports in African media and Insideworldfootball that he had received campaign funding of €15.3 million from the Ivorian authorities.

Mukdal requested a response from Anouma by March 2, which has been provided and outlines that Anouma has received no financial support for his CAF presidential campaign.

The Ivorian government has said it will support Anouma through diplomatic and political channels.

“It should be noted that the candidate does not receive funding from the Ivorian authorities, the latter having undertaken, through the press release sanctioning the Council of Ministers of January 20, 2021, to carry out diplomatic and relational actions for the promotion of the candidacy,” said Anouma’s campaign committee in a statement to Insideworldfootball.

The questions around campaign funding once again raise questions around dirty tricks in an increasingly FIFA-influenced election.

At the weekend, meetings in Rabat, Morocco, saw FIFA emissaries attempt to broker a deal amongst the candidates that would see Senegal’s Agustin Senghor and Mauritania’s Ahmad Yahya withdraw from the presidential race and support South African candidate Patrice Motsepe. Senghor and Yahya were instead offered CAF first and second vice presidencies.

Anouma, the only candidate to have already sat on the FIFA Council and CAF Executive Committee, was reportedly offered a role of ‘special advisor’ if he stood down from the presidential race. Quite what this role would entail and the overt keenness of FIFA to have Anouma out the race really questions the nature of the special advisory role offered that in practice is likely to be meaningless. Anouma’s long standing and wide-ranging contacts throughout African football – and Francophone Africa in particular – would likely get in the way of what many African federation presidents are referring to as a potential ‘FIFA-appointed’ CAF president.

For his part it is unclear whether Anouma will bow to the ‘Big Brother’ pressure of FIFA – desperate to retain thought control over one of the two confederations that form FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s most unquestioning support base – or whether he will battle on and fight the election.

Currently Anouma is still on the campaign trail with a trip scheduled to Conakry in Guinea to take place Wednesday.

Increasingly reports are that African presidents are uncomfortable with the influence of FIFA in the election of their regional president, with the world governing body allegedly once again using its twin ‘powers’ of its ethics investigations and grant money as sticks to herd African voters in the ‘right’ direction and were last evidenced

These are powerful tools that can make or break a national federation if they step out of line. Though with a growing number of African presidents increasingly taking offence at FIFA’s ‘blunt’ approach to their region’s politics, as many as 25 are reportedly prepared to vote against Motsepe and the ‘company line’.

The original source of the story alleging Anouma had received Ivorian government funding is unclear. The untruth of that story and the fabrication of government support of over €15 million now points towards the use of the media in a dirty tricks campaign.

Once again the future and right to self-determination of African football looks to be up for the vote.

In his tour of Africa last month Infantino at every stop championed a need for African nations to take a competitive position at the top of world football, challenging for major club and national team honours.

He frequently told his African audiences that FIFA was there, every step of the way, to get them to achieve that. For the Africans voting for their next president in Rabat on March 12, the big picture question in the horse trading that is international football politics, is really what they are going to have to give up to get that support. And is it in reality any greater than the money FIFA has to already provide to the region? And of course who is that money going to and how is it being spent?

So, is this another African election based on horses feeding at the trough or one that really encourages a new Africa with new thinking and real leadership. One that actually wants to break free of the corruption of Africa’s last FIFA-propped up president, Ahmad Ahmad and serially corrupt behaviour.

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