KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Issa Hayatou’s command of African football is at an end. The 70-year-old was beaten 34 votes to 20 in his re-election bid tdoay at CAF Congress in Addis Ababa after 29 years.
Madagascar FA boss Ahmad, who campaigned on a platform of administrative reform, financial transparency and a potential competitions reorganisation, thus became only the seventh president of the African football confederation CAF.
Some reports have suggested that Ahmad has been under preliminary investigation by the FIFA ethics chamber for his links with one-time Asian confederation chief Mohamed bin Hammam.
Even if true, this was still not enough for the FIFA review committee to consider him ineligible to stand for the CAF role which carried with it an automatic vice-presidency of the world governing body whose president, Gianni Infantino, was present at congress to witness the power shift.
The 57-year-old, after being raised shoulder-high in triumph by his supporters, wrote via Facebook: “With much emotion I thank all those who have believed in the change. Thanks to you who were always behind me. We have done it. This victory is ours. This is a victory for Africa.” He is a former minister of sport and of fisheries in Madagascar.
Hayatou had been one of the last representatives of the derided and disgraced old guard who shored up a corrupt culture within the upper echelons of world federation FIFA. Ironically his reign ended in Ethiopia, home of his predecessor Yidnekatchew Tessema.
Hayatou also did all he could to prevent Infantino’s election in February last year as FIFA president in succession to banned Sepp Blatter.
The Cameroonian’s political antennae let him down when he ordered CAF to back the wrong horse in Asian president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
He paid for it not only in being removed from the presidency of the powerful finance committee but in being kicked off the panel altogether.
That ‘dismissal’ also cost him his place on the FIFA remuneration committee which had played such a dubious role previously in fixing excessive salaries and bonuses for the president and senior officers.
Infantino has denied involving himself in any of the recent elections in the regional conferations. However his attitude to Hayatou appeared obvious from the committee-room reorganisation.
A key factor for Ahmad was in being able to lobby for, and build support from within the executive committee – as the election rules demand – and has drawn support from beyond the increasingly disaffected south of Africa.
The Nigerian federation has defied its own government and come out in public support of Ahmad while Hayatou’s most famous fellow countryman, four-times African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o, had also said it was time for a change at the top.
Hayatou has even had to try to fight off court complaint raised in CAF’s own Egyptian back yard – its HQ is in Cairo – concerning the monopolistic deal to grant Lagardère an extension from 2017 to 2028 in its media marketing rights without allegedly undergoing a tender process.
CAF has defended its Lagardère deal by saying “represented an enormous increase in the revenues guaranteed to CAF for its marketing and media rights, which secures significant and guaranteed funds for the benefit of African football over the next 12 years.”
Hayatou claimed to have strengthened African football in all doirections. It was under his leadership that the Nations Cup expanded to 16 teams and that Africa hosted the World Cup for the first and so far only time, in South Africa in 2010.
He also defended his commercial and financial strategy, saying that under his command CAF’s funds expanded from $1m in 1988 to more than $150m thanks to deals such as those with .Total, Orange and Lagardere.
Ahmad is now certain to review the Lagardere deal with the support, particularly from southern Africa, from critics of Hayatou who finally lost their inhibitions about standing up to the new ex-president.
Abdel Aziz Abdallah Salem (Egypt, 1957-1958)
Abdel Aziz Moustafa (Egypt, 1958-1968)
Abdel Halim Muhammad (Sudan, 1968-1972)
Yidnekatchew Tessema (Ethiopia, 1972-1987)
Abdel Halim Muhammad (Sudan, interim, 1987-1988)
Issa Hayatou (1988-2017)
Ahmad Ahmad (Madagascar, 2017-)