Story from George Aluo, Addis Ababa
Issa Hayatou, the last of the old generation leaders in world football, faces a rare and determined challenge when he bids for an eighth term as head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in today’s election.
Ahmad Ahmad, head of the Madagascar Football Association, according to Agence France-Presse seemed to have picked up key votes with his calls for “change” against the 70-year-old Hayatou.
Though, the Cameroonian official remains a favourite but many African federations were keeping their choice to their chests.
“Issa has never faced a challenge like this and he has had to call in some favours,” one CAF executive member said ahead of the vote at the congress here in Addis Ababa.
Hayatou has headed CAF since 1988 and is a senior vice-president of Fifa. He has been credited with increasing the number of African teams at the World Cup and bringing in extra finance for the continent’s competitions.
But he has also faced controversy, accused by a British newspaper of receiving $1.5-million to vote for Qatar when it was awarded the 2022 World Cup seven years ago.
In 2011, Hayatou was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee over money he received from scandal-tainted sports marketing company ISL in 1995.
He has always insisted the money went to CAF and has always strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Ahmad (57) has also been implicated in the 2022 World Cup bribe-taking. The Sunday Times said he received between $30 000 and $100 000 for his vote. The Madagascar soccer chief has called the allegations unfounded.
“If people want change there is no other choice. Only I can dare (to challenge Hayatou),” Ahmad said at the Madagascar Football Federation offices in Antananarivo.
“My programme is the reform of the administration of CAF to avoid the involvement of politics in the organisation,” he added.
Ahmad is already a member of the CAF executive and he has been promised the support of the 14-member Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa).
In a sign of the furious lobbying going on, the influential vote of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and a football powerhouse, appeared in doubt. Nigerian Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick had wanted to vote for Ahmad. But the government has called for a vote for Hayatou.
Fifa leader, Gianni Infantino visited Africa last month and met with Chiyangwa, who is seen as one of the leaders of the anti-Hayatou camp.
Infantino has embarked on reforms of the world body, seeking to redeem its image after the scandals that forced out past president Sepp Blatter and his one time ally Michel Platini. While many suspected he favours Ahmad, Infantino has not said publicly who he supports in the election battle.