Just two minutes into the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, Algeria's Baghdad Bounedjah skipped inside his defender and drove in a speculative shot from 25 yards. The hopeful effort took a screwball deflection off Senegal defender Salif Sane, pitching high into the night sky and over stranded goalkeeper Alfred Gomis. That moment of freak drama settled an attritional contest that capped off a tournament of exciting play.
Yet while Egypt 2019 provided a platform for Africa's global stars, off the pitch the game has been brought low by controversy at the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the sport's frequently dysfunctional governing body.
In June, Ahmad Ahmad, the Malagasy president of CAF, was questioned by French authorities as part of a probe into "corruption, breach of trust and forgery" around a sportswear deal, although he was neither detained nor charged and denies the wrongdoing. The incident followed a separate damaging dispute over the hosting of this year's Africa Cup of Nations. Last November Cameroon was stripped of the right to host the 2019 instalment owing to slow preparations, but was instead offered the right to host the 2021 tournament, sparking legal action from Cote d'lvoire, who will see its own tournament pushed back to 2023. In another move that raised eyebrows, CAF took the unprecedented decision to order a replay of the second leg of the CAF Champions League final following a failure of the video assistant referee (VAR) system.
In June, FIFA, the sport's global governing body, decided it had seen enough. The organisation installed its secretary general Fatma Samoura in the new role of "FIFA general delegate for Africa" for an initial six months from 1 August, handing the Senegalese a wide-ranging mandate to "oversee the operational management of CAF", including governance and administrative procedures, and to "ensure the efficient and professional organisation of all CAF competitions". The two organisations will conduct a "full forensic audit" of CAF as soon as possible and work to implement an 11-point roadmap signed in July.
For fans and football professionals long exasperated with CAF, the appointment of Samoura offers a chance to move on from wearying controversy. Others resist the appointment, seeing it as an unprecedented move by FIFA to muscle in on the turf of a continental association, or even an attempt by CAF's leadership to evade scrutiny.
"I don't see FIFA sending someone to Kuala Lumpur to sit...