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Amr Fahmy: African football’s unsung hero who revolutionized being a football fan in Egypt

Photo: CAF

For all those associated with Egyptian and African football, from fans, players, members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) or the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), sports journalists, and sports critics remembering is undoubtedly a must, following the recent CAF presidency elections.

Amr Mostafa Fahmy was the former Secretary-General of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and one of the Founders of Ahlawy. Despite his young age, he had already achieved so much in football, engraving his name with the greats of Egyptian and African football.

Today marks Fahmy's second death anniversary. Exactly 2 years ago, Egyptian and African football fans woke up to the tragic news of Amr Mostafa Fahmy's death, only aged 36. His death came as a result of a lost battle with cancer, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

In March 2021, a new CAF president was elected (Patrice Motsepe) due to the doings of Fahmy in his quest to end corruption within the organization and his attempts to topple former CAF president Ahmad Ahmad from his position.

In a nutshell, this is the story of how Amr Fahmy, a die-hard football fan working as administration for the CAF became the founder of Egypt's first-ever Ultras group, played an important role in bringing down a dictator during the Egyptian revolution, alongside a corrupt CAF president and inspired thousands in a campaign for justice for fallen comrades.

Amr, Ultras Ahlawy, and the revolution

Photo: Ahly Network

Being a football fanatic since he was young and coming from a footballing family, Fahmy wanted to follow in the footsteps of both his grandfather and father who occupied administrative roles in CAF. To do so, Fahmy decided to study sports management in Milan, Italy and this was where it all began for Ultras Ahlawy.

Milan is known to be the birthplace of ultra culture, enabling the late Egyptian to witness a new style of supporting a football club and introducing him to choreography, songs, and pyrotechnics.

In one way or another, he wanted to bring back this ultra culture and what he had seen in his time in Milan back to Cairo and the club he had fallen in love with since he was a child, Al Ahly.

After finishing his studies abroad and returning to Cairo, in the morning, Fahmy was working at the city's CAF office learning his administrative trade, but by night he was organizing Egypt's first-ever ultra group. In the spring of 2007, Ultras Ahlawy (UA) presented their first banner in the Cairo derby vs Zamalek.

Outside any football stadium, Fahmy was a well-presented, polite individual, however, when he arrived at any stadium for an Al Ahly game, he would transform into this infectious presence, becoming the leader of Al Ahly chants before, during, and after the game. He was best known in Al Ahly community for his ability to interact and connect with people from different backgrounds, classes, and religions portraying his charismatic, intelligent, and fierce personality when it came to his one and only love, football.

Photo: UA

Fahmy ensured all people of different backgrounds would be present in the ultra community he had created, be it rich or poor, Muslim or Christian, male or female, secular or religious. Sometimes for Fahmy, it meant that he would have to pay money from his pocket to fund the tickets for the poor segment of Ultras Ahlawy to be able to attend, again showing his leadership.

Worldwide, the ultras community always experiences the fight against oppression created by the authority. This was something that was evident with the 2011 January revolution, which saw UA play a role in leading the revolts.

Nevertheless, Fahmy kept his identity low-key to prevent arrest and lead getting justice for the martyrs of the tragic Port Said incident which saw 72 UA members killed.

In 2018, after a series of allegations, members being arrested, and accusations of being a terrorist group, UA decided to disband.

Amr Fahmy and CAF

Photo: CAF

After the dismissal of UA, Fahmy began a remarkable chapter in his life, as he was chosen to become the new secretary-general of CAF, making history as he became the youngest ever individual to occupy this role. The CAF Secretary-General is the administrative head of the football governing body, who manages the day-to-day affairs of the CAF.

Fahmy previously worked with the CAF Competitions Division between 2007 and 2015, after he obtained his FIFA Master in Management, Law, and Humanities of Sports.

Interestingly, he was following in his father's and grandfather's steps. Mostafa Fahmy, Amr's father was secretary-general of CAF for nearly three decades and his grandfather, Mourad, was the first-ever secretary-general of CAF and a former government minister.

Fahmy entered the scene with a youthful vision, carrying with him a new set of priorities that would ultimately change the trajectory of African football.

Moral absolutism was one main characteristic that he inherited from the ultra culture and wanted to implement it within the CAF to put an end to any corruption, whilst modernizing and developing the game within the continent.

Immediately after his arrival, VAR was introduced and a system of central payments, to promote transparency for CAF transactions, was implemented.

Sooner rather than later, he began pulling the strings to expose the corruption that was present within the organization, tickling giants, namely Ahmad Ahmad, CAF president at the time.

Amr Fahmy and Exposing Ahmad Ahmad

Photo: CAF

In March 2019, Fahmy made major corruption allegations against Ahmad Ahmad, the organization's president at the time, in an attempt to catch up with FIFA's efforts to clean up the game after a raft of scandals worldwide in that time period.

In his route to justice, the Egyptian accused his boss, Ahmad Ahmad of bribes and misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to officials and an internal document gathered by international news agency Reuters.

The report that Fahmy sent to FIFA exposed Ahmad by presenting a document that orders the payment of $20,000 bribes into accounts of African football association presidents, including Cape Verde and .

Also, the report pointed to Ahmad costing CAF an extra $830,000 by ordering equipment via a French intermediary company called Tactical Steel, which was owned by one of Ahmad's acquaints, explaining why he chose this unknown company, after dismissing a PUMA deal that Fahmy was in charge of.

Additionally, he was also accused of harassing four female CAF staff, violating statutes to increase Moroccan representation within the organization, and over-spending more than $400,000 of CAF money on cars in Egypt and Madagascar, where a satellite office has been set up for him.

After this outbreak of accusations, FIFA, Ahmad, Tactical Steel, and CAF all refused to comment. Consequently, Fahmy was fired from his position.

At the time, CAF gave no reasoning at all for Fahmy's sacking. When Ahmad was asked for the reasoning behind Fahmy's dismissal, he declared that staff changes in the organization are normal.

“I think that it is very normal in any organization that after two years, changes are made and new additions arrive. If you need reasoning, it was an internal decision and my proposal was approved by the executive committee,” declared Ahmad in a press conference back in 2019.

Amr Fahmy's Last words

Photo: CAF

In December 2019, Fahmy announced that he would be running to be the organization's next president in the elections set for 2021. Shortly before he was ousted from his role with CAF, he had surgery for a brain tumor.

He spent his time after his dismissal between Cairo and Paris, where he had been receiving further treatment.

“I want to lead African football's governing body while focusing on being pro-Africa, pro-football, and anti-corruption,” he told Sport in late 2019.

“I just want the bleeding of African football's money to stop. I don't want anyone to be locked up, but the corruption has to end. These funds could be used instead to develop the continent's football and fulfill its potential” said Fahmy in an with CGTN Africa, mentioning why he started all this.

Fahmy's running for the presidency showed that he was sure that his plan would eventually come to place. Unfortunately, he passed away after he lost his battle with cancer, before experiencing the downfall of Ahmad Ahmad.

Ahmad's Downfall

Ahmad Ahmad
Photo: CAF

In late 2020, justice was served and Ahmad was finally suspended by FIFA's investigative committee and convicted with all these allegations Fahmy presented after long months of investigations.

On 7 June 2019, Ahmad Ahmad was arrested by French authorities and questioned in relation to investigations into CAF's contract with Tactical Steel. However, he was let go one day later.

Last November, Ahmad Ahmad became the first CAF president to be banned by FIFA, with a five-year suspension. Later that month, for “governance issues” his ban was cut to two after appealing to FIFA's Court of Arbitration for Sport.

However, the only downside of Ahmad's ban was that the hero behind the success of this story was not there to witness his achievement. Amr Fahmy, the secret revolutionary finally got his man.

Final remarks

Photo: Ultras Tifo

Thankfully, Fahmy's plan fell into place, and let's hope that Ahmad's downfall is just the start of an Africa without corruption.

Banners were raised across stadiums around the world to honor him and what he did for world football in general and not only African football. “Amr Fahmy, your legacy is immortal.”

His stand against corruption is something that many people would have never done.

In hindsight, Amr Fahmy ought to be considered much more than an ultra, fan, or bureaucrat, he was a secret revolutionary.

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