CAF pres awaits appeal decision but path opens up for successor

FILE PHOTO: African Football Confederation (CAF) President, Ahmad Ahmad speaks to press at presidential palace in Abidjan, Ivory Coast January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A decision on the appeal against a five-year ban by Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad is expected by Monday, but the path now looks clear for South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe to replace him.

Ahmad was handed the ban last November for corruption, but it was lifted while he appealed to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

They heard his appeal on Tuesday and Wednesday and will deliver their verdict by Monday, sources have told Reuters, five day before CAF’s presidential election.

If the appeal were to be upheld, Ahmad would likely be allowed to stand for re-election at the CAF Congress in Rabat.

But the race to replace him dramatically narrowed on Friday after an agreement brokered by FIFA present Gianni Infantino, who spent a fortnight crisscrossing Africa to forge the deal.

In an arrangement reached with the four candidates seeking to replace Ahmad, Motsepe - one of the richest men in Africa - would take over the presidency with Augustin Senghor and Ahmed Yahya, two of his opponents, to be appointed vice presidents.

Senghor is president of Senegal’s football federation and Yahya heads the federation in Mauritania. Motsepe owns the South African club Mamelodi Sundowns, but has no previous experience in football politics.

"We have decided to accept the proposal submitted to us by FIFA in the name of the best interests of the unity of African football," Senghor said in a statement, detailing the agreement.

Former FIFA executive committee member Jacques Anouma, who was a fringe candidate, withdrew on Friday, telling Ivorian radio: "After several reflections and consultations, I decided to abandon my candidacy."

Yahya has not yet announced his withdrawal, but it is expected to follow in the next few days, almost certainly leaving Motsepe, 59, to be elected unopposed at the congress on Friday.

"The withdrawal of my candidacy in favour of another candidate will not be approved by all, of this I am aware. But I think it's a good decision, the right decision," added Senghor, whose said in his statement that the manifesto of all four candidates would serve as a roadmap for the future of the African game.

Publicity-shy Motsepe, who made his fortune in mining and is the brother-in-law of South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa, is seen as a leader with the potential to lift African football out of a spiral of controversy and into a new commercial era.

He was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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