A potential second term in office for Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad is looking considerably more likely after 46 of the continent’s 54 association presidents have called on him to run again.
The support comes despite Madagascar’s Ahmad, who took charge in 2017, having yet to formally announce his intention to stand in March’s elections.
The deadline to apply is 12 November, with no formal bid having yet been submitted by any candidate.
A statement signed by the heads of all Africa’s six regions suggests that the 60-year-old will have widespread backing should he opt to run again, even though he is the subject of an ongoing Fifa Ethics case.
Ahmad has previously said he would seek guidance from the continent’s football fraternity before deciding to run, saying he does the role out of ‘collective motivation’ not ‘personal ambition’.
“Today, we, Presidents of the six Councils of African Football Associations, supported by 46 presidents of our 54 member associations, call on President Ahmad to run for a second term in order to continue with his achievement,” the statement read.
“If he decides to do so, we will support him.”
A simple majority is required to win the Caf presidential election and only eight African nations did not put their name to the statement – Algeria, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Last month, Nigeria FA boss Amaju Pinnick refused to rule himself out of the race, saying there were ‘a lot of things fundamentally wrong in Caf right now’.
Earlier this week, one possible challenge to Ahmad foundered after Caf Executive Committee member Tarek Bouchamoui was effectively barred from standing.
The Tunisian’s hopes of bidding for the presidency have been thwarted after his country’s FA president Wadi Jari submitted his own candidacy for the Executive Committee shortly after the registration period opened last month.
Caf statutes rule that a country can only nominate one candidate for any position on the Executive Committee, including the presidency itself, so ruling out Bouchamoui – who would also have needed backing from his own FA to stand.
While Fifa Council member Bouchamoui had expressed his decision to run for the Caf Presidency to both his FA and Ministry of Sport, Jari revealed on Monday that he submitted his candidacy on 17 September.
Tunisia is among the countries to have pledged its support to Ahmad’s possible re-election.
“President Ahmad has brought new impetus to football in Africa,” the statement added. “The reforms initiated on the first day of his mandate have built a demanding institution, strong, modern, rising each day a little more to international standards.
“The fundamental reorganisation of the institution has made the administration more efficient. Transparency – particularly financial – has become a major concern, which is improving every day.
“Caf is doing better, but the situation remains fragile. Transformations in the institution are bearing fruit, but reforms must continue and good practices take root. The culture of high standards must become a habit. This requires time, perseverance and vigilance that only stability can bring.”
Ahmad’s critics would argue that his reign has been more dogged by controversy than reform.
He is the subject of a Fifa ethics investigation which could possibly derail his bid after former Secretary General Amr Fahmy made various allegations to football’s world governing body against the Malagasy – all of which Ahmad denies.
French anti-corruption authorities have also been interested by one of the allegations, which centres on a controversial deal with Tactical Steel, a little-known French gym manufacturer run by an old friend of Ahmad’s then attaché, which provided sportswear equipment to Caf in 2017 after an original deal with Puma – slightly smaller, but costing four times less – was cancelled.
Fifa has yet to release information about the investigation but has sent auditors to Caf, with Pricewaterhouse Coopers – in a damning report that leaked in February – questioning missing funds amounting to over $20m while also calling for further investigation into Ahmad’s role in the Tactical Steel affair.
The Zurich body undertook the audit along with Caf during an unprecedented move in world football – having sent its own Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, to act as a ‘General Delegate for Africa’ between August 2019 and February 2020 in a bid to improve football governance on the continent.
Ahmad supporters, meanwhile, will point to the creations of an expanded 24-team Nations Cup and a new Women’s Champions League, signing a landmark headquarters ruling with Egypt and recently providing $300,000 to each member association to help fight the financial impact of coronavirus among his achievements.
African football’s ruling body has also created a so-called ‘Transform Caf’ programme, which the Malagasy says will bring credible reform to an organisation that has been battling on several fronts in recent times.
The Caf elections take place in the Moroccan capital Rabat on 12 March.