Madagascar FA President, Ahmad dethrones Hayatou

Ahmad Ahmad (2ndL) of Madagascar reacts after being elected the new president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Addis Ababa on 16 March 2017. Madagascar’s football chief Ahmad Ahmad was elected president of the Confederation of African Football today, ousting veteran leader Issa Hayatou after 29 years in office. PHOTO: Zacharias Abubker / AFP

African football heaved a sigh of relief yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when Madagascar Football Association chief, Ahmad, ended Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign as Confederation of African Football president.

Ahmad won 34 out of the 54 votes cast in the election held inside the African House, where Nigeria’s Amaju Melvin Pinnick also beat Benin Republic’s Moucharafou Anjorin by 32 to 17.

Yesterday’s results heralded a change in the leadership of African football for the first time since 1988, but it had been long in coming.

The result also makes Ahmad, who in his acceptance speech invited every well-meaning football official in the continent to help in rebuilding the body, only the seventh president in CAF’s 60-year history.

This is the fourth attempt by the younger elements in CAF to try to change the leadership of the body since allegations of ineptitude and corruption started surfacing in the hitherto closely-knit executive committee.

Hayatou routinely beat his first challengers, Armando Machado of Angola (2000) and Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana.

At the last elections in Marrakesh, Morocco, Hayatou was returned unopposed because his challenger, Jacques Anouma of Cote d’Ivoire was declared ineligible to contest because he was not a member of the CAF executive committee.

The was a fall out of the CAF constitutional amendment engineered by Hayatou in September 2012, which states that anybody who is not a member of the body’s executive cannot vie for any elective position.

Nobody could challenge Hayatou’s rule, but many were not happy with his iron rule. They found an outlet in Ahmad, who rallied the young elements in CAF to the fight against the Camerounian’s hegemony.

Ahmad said before yesterday’s polls, “Many of my colleagues are demanding for change. And I believe that it is time for change, which is why I have decided to challenge him in the elections.

“We cannot keep complaining about the problems of African football in private and not be prepared to do nothing about it in the open. Why are people so afraid?

“We live in a time of transformation. The majority of federation presidents have changed. There are many more young people than before.”

The 57-year-old Ahmad, a two-time minister in Madagascar, who is currently the vice-president of his country’s senate, had the support of the new leaders in FIFA in his battle for succession.

The argument was that all the confederations’ bosses are less than 60 years, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, 45, and so it was out of place for Africa to be led to FIFA congress by a 72-year-old man, who many believe is close to 80 years.

Infantino had his reason for supporting Ahmad, apart from the age considerations.

The first sign that Hayatou’s reign was coming under its biggest threat emerged when 14 Southern African countries and Nigeria publicly declared support for Ahmad.

Even the last minute efforts to use some governments to force their FAs presidents to vote for Hayatou did not work, as at the collation of votes, Hayatou could only muster 20 out of the 54 votes.

Ahmad told reporters when his victory at the polls was revealed, “I can’t talk at this time. Only one thing – I thank God, I thank my team.

“We worked hard but we won. That was the first step. The second step is to develop African football.

“Some days I thought I would win – today I didn’t (think I would win).”

He added: “When you try to do something, you mean that you can do it. If I can’t do it, I never stand.

“This is sweet victory. When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.”

While Ahmad and his supporters were jubilating yesterday, Hayatou departed the auditorium humbled. He said, however, “It is not that bad.”

Aside the CAF Presidency, Hayatou also lost his position at Fifa, where he had been the longest-serving executive.

Ahmad has promised to modernise the body and make it more transparent.

Hayatou’s tenure as president will certainly be equalled by no other, as an amendment to the CAF statutes, at last September’s extraordinary congress in Cairo, ensures that his successor can only have a maximum of 12 years in office.

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