KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: South African millionaire business Patrice Motsepe has been elelcted unopposed as new president of the African football confederation at today’s election congress in Rabat, Morocco.

Motsepe’s surprise ascent has been achieved with influential support from Gianni Infantino. The president of world federation FIFA has spent much of the last few weeks focusing on the need to impose his choice as replacement for scandal-hit and banned Ahmad Ahmad.

Infantino has been heavily criticised in some quarters for taking  a puppet-master role but this would seem perfectly justified considering the millions of dollars of FIFA development funding which has ‘gone missing’ in Africa down the years.

Infantino will hope this is second time lucky: his misjudged support in 2017 of Ahmad to replace Cameroon’s long-serving Issa Hayatou turned out to be disastrous.

Motsepe’s accession also marks a notable coup for the behind-the-scenes work of Danny Jordaan, the South African FA president who has known his share of political ups and downs since leading the country’s successful bidding and hosting of the 2010 World Cup finals.

Motsepe’s election, despite his late arrival in the complex African football political scene, ends decades of the domination of CAF by the Francophone-Arab central and northern regions.

Infantino, addressing the election congress in positive mood, said: “We must stop saying it is necessary to develop African football. It is about projecting it to the summit of world football.

“The time for talking has stopped. We must move on, and we must move on as a team: as a CAF team and a FIFA team that also includes all the confederations and associations from all over the world. You are CAF. You are FIFA.”

The allusion to teamwork only underscored the consensus that FIFA and its president will be keeping a very close eye on the African governing body. This will only be assisted by the appointment as ceo of Veron Mosengo-Omba, FIFA’s head of member associations division.

As Infantino added, in relation to Motsepe’s election: “I want to assure you that FIFA is not at your side. FIFA is together with you.”

Motsepe – who will be supported by his three onetime rivals Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast), Augustin Senghor (Senegal) and Ahmed Yahya (Mauritania) in various advisory and vice-presidential roles – faces a host of challenges.

CAF has suffered a drop in its cash reserves of $40m dollars – from $110m to $70m – between 2019 and 2020. Running costs have outweighed its income since 2017, with another deficit anticipated for the next financial year – albeit with the expected loss of $3.2m far less than the most recent annual deficit of $13.7m.

Other decisions

 The 52 federations presented – absent were Chad, whose FA was dissolved by the government on Thursday, and Eritrea – voted to expand the number of CAF vice-presidents from three to five.

Elections for both the executive committee and Africa’s representation on the FIFA Council were also held.

All but one of Africa’s six FIFA representatives were replaced with Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick, Morocco’s Faouzi Lekjaa, Sierre Leone’s Isha Johansen, Benin’s Mathurin de Chacus and Mamoutou Toure of Mali joining Egyptian veteran Hany Abo Rida.

As for CAF’s executive committee, Kanizat Ibrahim of Comoros came in for the outgoing Johansen, while Cameroon’s Seidou Mbombo Njoya – who was only able to contest the ballot after a last-minute court ruling – replaced Chad’s Adoum Djibrine.

Elvis Chetty of the Seychelles and Botswana’s Maclean Letshwiti were voted in for the southern zone, where South Africa’s Danny Jordaan and the Angolan Rui Eduardo Da Costa dropped out, while Tunisia’s Wadi Jari was elected unopposed in the northern zone.