By Williams ‘Bantu’ Irubor
Issa Hayatou was voted out as president of the African soccer confederation on Thursday after 29 years in charge, removing him in the same stroke as FIFA’s most senior vice president and from the world body’s ruling council.
Hayatou’s defeat to Madagascar’s Ahmad by 34 votes to 20 in a ballot of the Confederation of African Football’s 54 member countries in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, stirred a shakeup for soccer on the continent, which Hayatou had led since 1988.
“This is sweet victory,” said Ahmad, a government minister from Madagascar and the Madagascan football federation head. “When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.”
As the result became apparent, Ahmad’s campaign manager, southern African soccer head Phillip Chiyangwa, shouted out “We won!”
“This was coming. He (Hayatou) knew it was coming,” said Chiyangwa, whose fierce criticism of Hayatou in the lead-up to the vote highlighted a nasty campaign.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino invited speculation that he was backing Ahmad, and had turned on his senior FIFA VP, when he appeared last month at a party hosted by campaign manager.
Hayatou was never an ally of Infantino judging by his support for one of Infantino’s opponents in the FIFA presidential election last year. Ahmad’s victory could give the new FIFA boss another friend on his council. Ahmad becomes a FIFA VP as head of the African confederation.
“It is annoying that a FIFA president influenced this election for his own interest,” Guinea-Bissau FA president Opes Manuel Nascimento, a Hayatou supporter, said.
“We are very happy that African football has now been liberated,” Rwanda football federation president Vincent Nzamwita said.
Hayatou stood in as acting FIFA president in the wake of the 2015 scandal, had reigned supreme over CAF for three decades, and had only been challenged twice before for re-election. Both those times he won by landslide and hadn’t faced a challenger for over a decade.
“This is a change which came after too long,” Swaziland soccer official Mahlaba Mamba said. “From 1988 to 2017 … that’s too long.”
Ahmad’s priority was to set up a new code of ethics for CAF, he said in his final address to voters before the election.
His focus on ethics came at a time when Hayatou and CAF secretary general Hicham el Amrani have been recommended for criminal prosecution in Egypt over CAF’s new $1 billion marketing and television rights deal. The Egyptian Competition Authority alleges CAF monopolized the rights by ignoring a competing offer when extending its partnership with French company Lagardere Sports.