On the eve of the Aiteo CAF Awards Gala 2017, CAF president Ahmad, faced the press at the Accra International Conference Centre, the same venue where the best actors of African football during the year 2017 will be rewarded. Lasting nearly 45 minutes, he spoke bluntly, answering questions from journalists from Ghana and beyond. Below are exceprts;
On the scrapping of the category "Player of the Year-based in Africa"
We felt that a double standard could not be promoted by awarding distinctions for second choice. When you aim for excellence, you must rise to the highest standards. The goal is to work for the best players to stay on the continent. One can evolve in Africa and be the best player in Africa. We must create the conditions to keep the best on the continent.
I will take the example of Trésor Mputu, who certainly had the talent to go to Europe and be among the best Africans. But the president of TP Mazembe, Moise Katumbi, provided the means to keep him at the club. We are convinced that we can multiply similar situations on the continent and have one day the best African player who plays in Africa.
On the scrapping of the category "Referee of the Year"
Referees already have their rewards and marks of recognition. They are evaluated at each match by the Referees' Committee and the best are designated for big games such as the CAF Champions League final. In addition, there is a risk of violation of ethical rules because this distinction can be a factor of corruption in the near future.
On the withdrawal of Globacom as title sponsor of the Awards
It's not for me to give you the reasons, the question should be addressed to them (Globacom). We found out that Glo terminated the contract three months ahead of the event and one year before the end of the contract. We had to find another sponsor. If you ask me how we signed Aiteo, I can tell you. When you are in charge, your role is to look for solutions to problems. Aiteo offered to take up the sponsorship of the event and their contract is an improvement on that of Globacom.
On reforms of the Awards and in particular the likely changes to the nomination criteria
We are a dynamic and attentive team. The Management is listening to all stakeholders and keeping the best ideas. We are constantly thinking about driving change and we will not change just for the sake of change. We are in contact with FIFPRO which in the future may a partner for the Awards. If there are good ideas, irrespective of where they come from, we would consider them.
On the role of legends of African football
I was raised to always show gratitude. I cannot understand the management of football, without recognition to those who made African football great. Not doing so would be out of step with my faith as a practicing Muslim. Legends have made efforts and given their sweat for African football to be recognized.
We have always said that legends have a prominent place in our actions. An illustration is the presence here of a legend of African football, Anthony Baffoe, as Deputy Secretary General of CAF in charge of Competitions and Technical Development. This is a proof that we are keeping our commitments. You have others who are members of committees like Geremi Njitap of the Technical and Development Committee headed by another former player, Kalusha Bwalya.
On attendance of George Weah, President-elect of Liberia
In principle, we must wait for the official announcement of the results and his swearing in. However, I cannot help but notice that it is a pride for the whole family of African football, to have one of their own who has the confidence of his fellow citizens to lead the destinies of his country. CAF is delighted and proud of him.
For personal reasons, he will not be able to attend the Awards Gala, will be represented by his wife on this occasion.