News making the rounds is that serious conflict is brewing over the possible hosting of the next edition of Africa’s flagship football tournament – the Africa Cup of Nations.
The biennial tournament, the next of which is scheduled for 2019, had been awarded to Cameroon to host it in January of that year.
The hosting rights were awarded last year, in the reign of Issa Hayatou, who was President of CAF until March of this year. Incidentally, Hayatou is a Cameroonian, and the events that are unfolding might, or might not be connected to him as a person, and his ouster from the big office that he held for 29 years.
Whatever happens, it is looking like, as many other aspects of football has been exposed to in recent years, dirty politics has managed to invade the Africa Cup of Nations, in whom many Africans hold pride.
In Morocco last month, at a symposium organized by CAF to chart the way forward for African football, it was resolved that there will be an expansion of the AFCON and a change in dates.
Issues were also raised regarding the state of preparedness, or level of progress of Cameroon to stage the tournament. Part of the resolutions of the AFCON group was to have an independent audit of facilities being presented by any host nation. This is aimed at ensuring that global and uniform standards are set and met by any nation that seeks to host this competition.
Suffice to note, at this stage that one of the first tasks of the new leadership of CAF was to appoint heads into the various standing committees of the organization. And the mantle of leadership of the Organising Committee of AFCON was bestowed on none other than Amaju Pinnick, the current President of the Nigeria Football Federation.
It was Pinnick that led the working group that recommended the changes to AFCON to CAF. It was Pinnick who suggested that global standards be met when hosting of competitions are being discussed in Africa.
“We are fed up with the tag of ‘after all, it is Africa, lets manage it’, because Africa is big and Africa has great nations and great people, and we deserve more than that from the world at large”, he is quoted to be fond of saying.
So it was Pinnick, riding on his relationship with esteemed international audit and management firm Price Waterhouse Coopers, that contacted this organization through their office in Nigeria, to carry out a facilities audit of Cameroon as a potential host of the next AFCON.
Pinnick, when he became President of the Nigerian football body, preached transparency and engaged the firm –Price Waterhouse Coopers – to audit the books of his organization regularly. It was only natural for him to go back there to request for their service in facility audit, provided the company had what it took to carry such act out.
Now as decorum will demand, Price Waterhouse Coopers – a well-established global name with offices all over, has an office in Nigeria, and an office in Cameroon,
PWC Nigeria contacted PWCCameroon and informed it of the task that it has been given. As host nation operation, PWCCameroon was expected to provide local knowledge and logistical support to its counterpart coming in from Nigeria.
There is word out there that Cameroon tried to lean on Nigeria to bend rules and lower standards, and sought to take the lead in an inspection visit that was being conducted in the country where they operate from; and which wont portend fair play and a fair assessment.
PWC Nigeria refused, and insisted on maintaining the brief for which they were engaged, and uphold the standards that are expected of an organization of their magnitude. PWCNigeria insisted that their image in the eyes of the international world should be paramount in this exercise and that they would work to reach those standards during the visit.
It was at that instance that PWC Cameroon allegedly pulled out of any assistance or collaboration withPWC Nigeria. As is normal standard practice within the big firm, once the host branch has refused to guarantee the provision of assistance and standard protocol to the visiting arm, there was no choice than for PWC Nigeria to cancel that engagement on that basis.
We have seen news reports that CAF President Ahmad was implicated in the whole saga. Some newspapers even went as far as to sayPWC ‘denounced’ CAF President Ahmad.
The question, though, is, is this about Ahmad or about ensuring the high standards that African football deserves?
Ahmad is the President of CAF, and he has an organizing committee for this AFCON. This committee is headed by Amaju Pinnick, who believes strongly in the use of international intermediaries to get the best in all situations.
What Africa demands is a departure from the days when a few members of CAF Exco, plus a few others will travel, enjoy the frivolities of being special guests in a host nation, travel round, see reality and report falsehood. The end result will always be a substandard tournament.
In the last 4 editions of AFCON, we have seen games being played in waterlogged pitches (more like water polo), and we have seen venues with substandard hotels.
Africa wants to move on from that. And it is the battle for good standard that we clamour for, not affront and attacks on individuals like CAF President Ahmad, who was not even privy to the appointment of PWCin the first place, or Pinnick who has been saddled to do what he can to give AFCON global recognition and respect.
“We have nothing against Cameroon”, Pinnick said, “it is a very important nation in African football history, and its pride of place is assured. But we want good practice and we want to make sure that they will be ready to host us in 2019. This is not asking for too much”.
Pinnick insists that inspections must be carried out, and whatever happens will have to go to the CAF Exco for their deliberations, in Accra in September.
“The inspection was due to take place in the last few days. It didn’t. We will take our report to Accra in September and deliver our findings on why it did not happen. But rest assured, inspections must take place and they will. We will not lower our standards, and there will be no compromise. AFCON deserves to be watched by millions around the world, and we want to make sure that the millions around the world do not laugh at us and what we do, when we do present a tournament for them to see,” a defiant Pinnick concluded.