Issa Hayatou was voted out as president of the African soccer confederation on Thursday after 29 years in charge, losing to challenger Ahmad of Madagascar in a major shakeup for the sport on the continent.
The 70-year-old Hayatou had ruled African soccer since 1988 and was FIFA’s most senior vice president because of his status as the longest-serving executive at the world soccer body. He also lost that position Thursday, and his place on FIFA’s ruling council.
Ahmad won 34-20 in the vote of Africa’s 54 member federations. He will become a FIFA vice president and join the council. Hayatou left the congress room in Addis Ababa when the result was announced without commenting.
“This is sweet victory,” said Ahmad, who was held aloft by officials when his victory was announced and then hugged people around him. “When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.”
Ahmad takes over on an initial four-year term, and has promised to modernize CAF and make it more transparent. His first job, he said earlier Thursday, would be to introduce a new code of ethics for the African soccer body. He has also pledged to extend ethics checks on African soccer officials.
Hayatou’s departure is the end of an era in African soccer. The Cameroonian, who took power when Ronald Reagan was still president of the United States, was seeking an eighth term in office. As the result became apparent, Ahmad’s campaign manager shouted out “We won!”
The campaign manager, Zimbabwe Football Association president Phillip Chiyangwa, predicted that Ahmad had won over 35 national federations to his cause, a credible claim in the end. Chiyangwa also fiercely criticized Hayatou in the run-up to the election, saying he was too old and had led CAF for too long.
“This was coming. He (Hayatou) knew it was coming,” Chiyangwa said following Ahmad’s victory. Underlining his complete control over CAF for three decades, Hayatou had only been challenged in a re-election campaign twice before, and he won both of those votes in landslides. He was re-elected unchallenged in 2013 after engineering rule changes that favored his candidacy. Hayatou served as acting FIFA president following the world body’s 2015 corruption scandal and had been touted as a possible candidate for the head of FIFA. He eventually decided not to stand.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was present for CAF’s general assembly, and raised speculation that he was backing Hayatou’s challenger when he appeared at a party hosted by Chiyangwa last month.
photo credit: Pulse NG