.FIFA President, Nigeria, S/Africa, Zimbabwe behind Ahmad
By John Egbokhan
The plot to oust Issa Hayatou from the exalted Presidential seat of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) continues to thicken ahead of next month’s election in Addis Ababa.
Madagascar’s football boss, Ahmad is challenging the longest-serving Hayatou for the CAF presidency at the 39th Ordinary General Assembly of CAF, at which the election will take place on March 16 in Ethiopia
First elected in 1988, Cameroonian Hayatou, 70, is seeking an eighth consecutive term as head of the body that governs African football. But his bid is meeting with stiff resistance from top football stakeholders, including FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, who wants a clean break from the old order that saw the likes of former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter losing his tight-grip on FIFA, paving way for the new generation of young and active administrators, which Ahmad represents.
Recall that Hayatou told CAF delegates to vote for Asian Football Confederation president, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa at last year’s FIFA election, which Infantino, the former UEFA Secretary-General won by 115 votes to 88, in the second round of voting.
According to findings, Infantino, who was in South Africa during the week, for a three-day FIFA Council Meeting, was said to have told delegates to next month’s CAF Congress that a vote for Ahmad would benefit African football at the global level.
Infantino, it was learnt reportedly told a gathering of African football bosses in Harare, Zimbabwe that it was high time they stopped Hayatou from perpetuating himself in power, with no attendant progress for the continent’s football.
Despite an earlier order by CAF that the meeting held on Thursday, should be called off, as it represented a ploy to destabilise CAF,, organisers went ahead with the programme, where we scooped that the final plot to outwit Hayatou was perfected.
Some 24 heads of African football associations were reported to have attended the event hosted by Zimbabwe FA boss, Phillip Chiyangwa , who incidentally is Ahmad’s campaign manager.
Chiyangwa said the meeting was a birthday party, meant to celebrate his 58th birthday and unexpected appointment as president of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) in December.
And rather interestingly, Hayatou was not invited to the party, a decision that Chamu Chiwanza, who is the chairman of Zimbabwe’s Affirmative Action Group, stoutly defended
“When you do your party, invitations are sent at your own discretion. I’m not saying he’s not close to the Caf president but if you’re not friends, why would you invite them just because they have a position?”
With Cosafa pledging to vote en-bolock for Ahmad and Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick, who was in Harare, courageously throwing his hat in the ring for Hayatou’s opponent, that theoretically accounts for 15 votes, with a total of 28 needed to unseat the Cameroonian.
The Secretary-General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura, who hails from Senegal,, also attended the Harare event while South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe was also sighted.
And as the election date approaches swiftly, Ahmad has insisted that it was high time CAF changed Hayatou, who he accused of being authoritarian.
“If people want change there is no other choice. Only I can dare (to challenge Hayatou),” Ahmad said in an interview with AFP.
“My program is the reform of the administration of CAF to avoid the involvement of politics in the organisation,” said the 57 years old father of two.
Hayatou has been challenged for the presidency only twice, with both rivals coming from southern Africa, and he inflicted humiliating defeats on Armando Machado of Angola and Ismael Bhamjee of Botswana.
Most observers believe Ahmad poses a greater threat to Hayatou but he remains the outsider.
Under a change introduced last year, CAF presidents are restricted to three four-year terms, starting from March.