Dirty tricks stain CAF polls
Interesting political moves surround the election of the top officer for Africa’s football federation
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