By Samindra Kunti

November 10 – The race for the leadership of African football is picking up with Mauritania’s Ahmed Yahya becoming the fourth candidate to announce his intentions to run in the presidential elections for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in March 2021. On Monday, Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma and South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe announced their candidacy.

This Thursday’s deadline for nominations for the CAF presidency has led to a flurry late candidatures, with the boss of Mauritania the latest. “After much thoughts and discussions, I have decided to present my candidacy,” Yahya announced on Twitter.

In 2019, Yahya consolidated his grip on the Mauritanian game when he was re-elected for a third term in office as president of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (FFRIM). Under his presidency, Mauritania reached a maiden continental finals in 2019. That same year, the women’s team hosted Djibouti in their first ever international.

Yahya, a member of CAF’s Executive Committee, has the reputation of being an astute football administrator, who has developed both infrastructure and sporting capital in Mauritania. He rose through the ranks in the local game after founding FC Nouadhibou in 1999. He chaired the club until 2004.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino praised Yahya at the inauguration of a new stadium in Nouakchott in 2019. He said: “The FFRIM is a great example of a successful and progressive member association and, in fact, I often refer to it in my speeches and encourage people to visit Mauritania to see for themselves.”

It is expected that Senegal’s Augustin Senghor will announce his candidacy before the November 12 deadline. With candidates from Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mauritania, the francophone vote runs the risk of being split and fragmented. The incumbent Ahmad announced his bid for re-election, but with a very long standing FIFA Ethics investigation into multiple allegations of corruption and sexual harassment, Ahmad’s days of protection look to be coming to an end.

A solid supporter of Infantino, Ahmad had been expected to stand down in what was rumoured to be a behind-closed-doors deal that would have allowed him to return to the shadows without the stain of an Ethics sanction. His decision to stand is rumoured to have changed that and that he had become too toxic for even FIFA’s upper power levels. It was initially rumoured that he had initially been expected to smooth the path for FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura to move from her role as General Delegate for Africa into the presidency. CAF’s executive committee effectively ended that when they voted not to renew her tenure as FIFA’s person on the ground after an initial six month term.

On Monday, South African businessman and Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe emerged as a surprise candidate. He received the backing from the federations of South Africa, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Botswana. At a news conference in Johannesburg, Danny Jordaan said:  “He is the most appropriate person we could offer for the leadership of CAF. CAF must improve its global standing. Africa and CAF must be one of the leading continental bodies in FIFA. We do not want any compromise on governance or ethics in football.”