The last General Assembly of the CAF (Confederation of African Football) held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, was a real historic moment for the world of football in Africa.
The conference marked by the election of a new president, the Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad, who ejected Issa Hayatou after leading the organisation since 1988. The election knew an alliance between countries including Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, and Zimbabwe against Issa Hayatou. Even FIFA president Gianni Infantino was more enthusiastic to have a new football leader in Africa. Accordingly, he implicitly showed his support to the Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad, the only person who decided to compete with Issa Hayatou and, therefore, obliged him to leave his office. This support by FIFA president was logical since Haytou himself supported Selman Ibn Brahim, a rival of Gianni Infantino, in the latest elections of the FIFA president.
Before the elections, support for the new president multiplied from African federations. Zimbabwe encouraged others to vote for the Malagasy candidate, Ahmad Ahmad, whose program was based on the need for change and transparency in the management of the highest continental football body. As a reminder, CAF had withdrawn the organisation of the U17 African Cup that was supposed to have been held in Madagascar. A decision that was not easy to grasp by President Ahmad Ahmad, who did not hesitate to draw the parallels between this decision and his strong candidacy. As a result, Ahmad Ahmad won 34 of the 54 African voting federations. Issa Hayatou obtained the remaining 20 votes and therefore made the talk of the town by leaving the organisation.
Issa Hayatou and CAF
Following the death of the Ethiopian Ydnekatchew Tessema, in August 1987, Issa Hayatou became the fifth president of the CAF. In 1990, he obtained a new position by becoming a member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA).
Under his mandate as CAF president and for twenty years, African football has been making a real breakthrough. Hayatou managed to get five places instead of two for Africa in the final tournament of the World Cup of football. Besides, several African countries that took part in this glorious competition were particularly brilliant, such as Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, Morocco in 1986, and Algeria in 2014. It was the first time in the history of football that Africa hosted the world’s premier sporting event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which was organized presumably thanks to the influence of its president. Similarly, the African Football Cup of Nations has been always gaining momentum from eight to twelve teams in 1992 and sixteen teams four years later in the South African edition. The number of teams participating in the qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations has also been increased so as to give the chance to more African national teams to play the final tournament.
The African Confederation, under the presidency of Hayatou, also contributed to the development of its club competitions, such as the African Cup of Champions Clubs till 1996 and the CAF Champions League since 1997, the CAF Cup from 1992 to 2003, then the Confederation Cup and the African Cup Winners Cup. Under his presidency, the means granted to various minor football practices such as futsal, women’s football and beach soccer which were all promoted and encouraged by CAF.
The 2017 CAF General Assembly held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa was the final nail in the coffin for Hayatou as CAF president. He was shocked to lose his 8th candidacy for the presidency of the African Football Confederation.
Ahmad Ahmad the New CAF President
Ahmad Ahmad has been known as the representative and president of the Malagasy Football Federation, and Former Minister of Sports in Madagascar. The man coming from the south, in addition to the very important fisheries portfolio, was a football player and coach in his beginnings. It is in 2013, in Marrakech, that Ahmad came out of the woods. He was then elected to the CAF Executive Committee as a representative of the South Zone at the expense of the powerful South African Danny Jordan, a surprise victory in the second round of voting. On Friday, January 13th, in Libreville, he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the CAF so as to defy the irremovable Issa Hayatou in the elections of Addis Ababa. Therefore, there were only two candidates: Issa Hayatou, president of the CAF since 1988, and Ahmad Ahmad, 54, who is currently president of the Malagasy Football Federation.
“I put my candidacy under the sign of transparency,” said Mr. Ahmad Ahmad whose name was mentioned in the corruption case surrounding the award of the 2012 World Cup in Qatar. He would have received $ 30,000 to $ 100,000. But the proof has never been given.
The announcement of his candidacy came only a few hours before the Executive Committee of the CAF withdrew the hosting right for CAN 2017 from Madagascar. His candidacy was doomed and only seen as a “routine” legal initiative and a mock democratic election. However, he made a real revolution and by his wisdom and alliances, he was able to start writing a new history for football in the continent by sending Issa Hayato back home.
CAF Executive Committee: Two New Members
On the sidelines of the election of the new CAF President, the Congress also renewed the membership of the Executive Committee. The least that can be said is that two strong members were forced to leave the CAF Executive committee, namely the Beninese Anjorin Mouchgarafou who was defeated by Nigeria’s Amaju Pinnick by 17 votes to 32 on behalf of West B zone, and the Algerian Mohamed Raouraoua in the Northern zone, who also lost his position to the Moroccan Faouzi Lekjaa (41 to 7). The other members of the new CAF Executive Committee are Liberian Musa Bility (West Zone A), South Africa’s Danny Jordaan and Rui Eduardo Campos da Costa (South), Djiboutian Suleiman Waberi (East), The Chadian Djibrine Adoum (Central Zone), and the Sierra Leonean Isha Johansen (female candidate).
Furthermore, the congress elected new African representatives on the FIFA Council. They are Guinean Almamy Kabele, Burundian Lidya Nsekera, Tunisian Tarek Bouchamoui, Congolese Constant Omari (who dominated Ivory Coast Sidy Diallo), and Ghana’s Kwesi Nyantakyi.
African Football to the Next Level
At the end of March, the new president of the CAF, Ahmad Ahmad, started officially his work in his new position. According to a report published on the CAF official website, Ahmad chaired a first meeting with the headquarter staff in Cairo. The meeting shed light on the new president‘s approach for managing football in the continent and the necessary organisation to improve the quality of CAF management. Speaking to the staff of the CAF headquarters, the new president said:
“This house belongs to you. CAF is yours. Let’s protect our institution. We officials are just passing by, but you have been called to stay. I have confidence in you and I am convinced that, with you, we will be able to succeed and develop African football more.”
Currently, as the new president announced in various occasions, the whole philosophy of the new executive board is to empower the criteria of transparency and good governance in the management of football in Africa. CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad, also expressed his intention to increase the number of teams participating in the African Nations Cup which has been held with the participation of 16 teams since the 1996 championship in South Africa.
“I am thinking seriously about increasing the number of teams participating in the African Cup of Nations in the coming period” said Mr. Ahmad. The president, who was talking to the Egyptian media, pointed out that he will present the proposal to increase the championship teams, as well as companies sponsoring the Confederation, that the tournament system has not been changed for many years and needs to be developed.
While applying this proposal, the CAF African Nations Cup will join the major tournaments which have increased the participating teams, including the European Nations Cup which was held for the first time with the participation of 24 teams in the last summer, as well as the World Cup, which will be held with the participation of 48 teams from the World Cup in 2026.
Ahmad Ahmad declared that his position is clear and explicit on the possibility of moving the headquarters of the African Confederation from Egypt, stressing that he will fight for its continuation in Cairo, especially since it was founded in Egypt, a country that has a great civilization. Besides, the new president is not interested in staying for a long time in office. For him, ten years is sufficient for any official to be productive at his post.
So will this duration be enough to put into practice the criteria of transparency and quality governance in the management of African football? Africa.com will follow the whole story!