Dirty tricks stain CAF polls

In­ter­est­ing po­lit­i­cal moves sur­round the elec­tion of the top of­fi­cer for Africa’s foot­ball fed­er­a­tion

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI and S’BUSISO MSELEKU ti­mothy@city­press.co.za sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za

The big­gest ques­tion in the African foot­ball fra­ter­nity should be: Will CAF have a new pres­i­dent for the first time in 29 years come Thurs­day? Lit­tle-known Mada­gas­car Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Ah­mad Ah­mad is the sole chal­lenger to Cameroo­nian Issa Hay­a­tou (70) who has run the or­gan­i­sa­tion with an iron fist since 1988.

The rea­son Ah­mad emerged as the sole can­di­date was be­cause none of the other 17 CAF ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers – in­clud­ing sec­re­tary-gen­eral Hicham El Am­rani of Morocco – raised their hands to chal­lenge the sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian (see box).

Hay­a­tou man­aged to ring-fence his po­si­tion be­fore the last elec­tions by push­ing through a clause that only al­lowed serv­ing mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive to chal­lenge for the pres­i­dency.

Two of­fi­cials who had be­fore chal­lenged Hay­a­tou, An­golan Ar­mando Machado and Botswana’s Is­mael Bham­jee, suf­fered hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feats in their at­tempts – in 2000 and 2004 re­spec­tively – to wres­tle power from Hay­a­tou.

The Cameroo­nian is now seek­ing an un­prece­dented eighth term.

With 54 coun­tries in CAF, a can­di­date who polls 28 votes au­to­mat­i­cally be­comes the win­ner of the elec­tive process.

With 21 mem­ber coun­tries hav­ing al­ready pledged their votes and loy­alty to Ah­mad, it is likely to be a tight race.

All 14 mem­bers of the Coun­cil of South­ern Africa Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (Cosafa) have en­dorsed Ah­mad.

But this is no guar­an­tee that they will vote en bloc.

Africa is split among An­glo­phone, Fran­co­phone and Arab coun­tries, while there is a sprin­kling of Por­tuguese-speak­ing coun­tries such as Mozam­bique, An­gola and the Cape Verde.

CAF and Hay­a­tou were last month heav­ily chas­tised by South African Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula when the or­gan­i­sa­tion is­sued a state­ment say­ing Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma had en­dorsed Hay­a­tou’s can­di­da­ture.

More in­di­ca­tions of a swing against Hay­a­tou in­clude a re­port this week in the pub­li­ca­tion Van­guard stat­ing that Cameroon’s Pres­i­dent Paul Biya had spurned a re­quest for a meet­ing with his com­pa­triot.

More­over, leg­endary Cameroo­nian striker Sa­muel Eto’o told the me­dia that it was time for a change of blood in the CAF lead­er­ship.

Be­sides the pres­i­dency, po­si­tions in the CAF ex­ec­u­tive as well as in the Fifa Coun­cil are up for grabs.

A with­drawal by three prom­i­nent Africans, Safa pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan, for­mer Zam­bian star foot­baller and FA pres­i­dent Kalusha Bwalya, and Chabur Goc Alei of South Su­dan, for po­si­tions in the Fifa Coun­cil sent the ru­mour mill into over­drive.

There was spec­u­la­tion that the trio with­drew be­cause they feared the newly in­tro­duced in­tegrity checks by the world foot­ball gov­ern­ing body. In re­sponse to City Press’ en­quiry on the rea­sons for the three with­drawals, a Fifa spokesper­son wrote: “Please note that the Fifa re­view and gover­nance com­mit­tee does not com­mu­ni­cate the de­ci­sions taken with re­spect to can­di­dates that have with­drawn their ap­pli­ca­tions. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on this mat­ter, please con­tact CAF.” The con­ti­nen­tal body’s spokesper­son, Ju­nior Binyam, had not an­swered his phone nor re­sponded to SMSes by the time of go­ing to press. In a com­mu­nique to mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions, CAF stated: “Fi­nally, the gover­nance com­mit­tee has taken note that the re­spec­tive mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions have with­drawn nom­i­na­tions for the fol­low­ing per­sons: Chabur Goc Alei [South Su­dan], Kalusha Bwalya [Zambia] and Daniel Alexan­der Jor­daan [South Africa].” (See box) Bwalya did not an­swer sev­eral calls to his cell­phone and did not re­spond to an SMS ask­ing why he had with­drawn. Writ­ing in the Aips news­let­ter, vet­eran English soc­cer jour­nal­ist Keir Radnedge, re­vealed that: “Rus­sian sports supremo Vi­taly Mutko has been barred from stand­ing for re-elec­tion to the gov­ern­ing coun­cil of world foot­ball fed­er­a­tion Fifa.”

The de­ci­sion will be seen as a ma­jor diplo­matic and per­sonal snub to Mutko, who was pro­moted to Rus­sia’s deputy prime min­is­ter from sports min­is­ter in October. He is also pres­i­dent of the Rus­sian Foot­ball Union and of the 2018 World Cup lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.

A thumbs-down ver­dict on Mutko from a Fifa re­view com­mit­tee in an el­i­gi­bil­ity check was con­firmed by a state­ment from him­self to the Tass news agency.

It read: “This past week, South Africa’s FA pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan was among can­di­dates blocked from stand­ing for African con­fed­er­a­tion seats around the world game’s top ta­ble.”

How­ever, Jor­daan rub­bished the claim that he was blocked from en­ter­ing the Fifa elec­tions.

He said his was a strate­gic move fol­low­ing ad­vice from his Cosafa can­di­dates.

“Cosafa con­firmed and in­sisted that they were sup­port­ing my can­di­da­ture for a po­si­tion in the CAF ex­ec­u­tive. No guar­an­tees were made for my Fifa can­di­da­ture, hence I with­drew. There is noth­ing sin­is­ter,” he said.

Mean­while, Cosafa con­firmed this in a state­ment this week, in which it said that the re­gion sup­ported Jor­daan’s with­drawal from the Fifa po­si­tion to con­cen­trate on the CAF ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee one.

STRONG­MAN Issa Hay­a­tou has been CAF pres­i­dent since 1988

CHAL­LENGER Mada­gas­car FA pres­i­dent Ah­mad Ah­mad

WITH­DRAWN Kalusha Bwalya of Zambia

WITH­DRAWN Danny Jor­daan of South Africa

WITH­DRAWN Chabur Goc Alei of Su­dan

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