FIFA veteran Hayatou toppled as head of African football | Africa | DW | 16.03.2017
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African Football

FIFA veteran Hayatou toppled as head of African football

Issa Hayatou has been voted out of office after 29 years as president of the Confederation of African Football. He was defeated by Ahmad Ahmad (pictured) of Madagascar.

At the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville, Gabon in February 2017, Cameroon beat Egypt 2:1. Sitting in the VIP area was Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). He should have been beside himself with joy at the outcome of the match, but from his demeanor, he appeared to be in no mood to celebrate.       

Hayatou, one of the last relics of the era of ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter, was facing recurring allegations of corruption, investigations into his rights marketing activities and a growing clamor against his reelection.

At the election for a new CAF president in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Hayatou was defeated by Ahmad Ahmad (pictured above), head of the Madagascar Football Association. Ahmad won the election by 34 votes to Hayatou's 20.

Ahmad had the backing of  Zimbabwean Phillip Chiyangwa, the head of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa), Chiyangwa was a longtime parliamentary deputy for Zimbabwe's  ruling ZANU-PF before he switched to a career in football. Under his leadership, Cosafa has committed itself to voting for Ahmad in Addis Ababa in the election on March 16.

"Ahmad Ahmad is a former minister and sports functionary from Madagascar, a calm and collected individual who is acquiring growing support and not just in Zimbabwe, but across the whole region," said sports journalist Thomas Kwenaite, who reports on corruption scandals in African football for the South African Supersport TV channel and the weekly Mail & Guardian Kwenaite.

Interim FIFA Preswident Issa Hayatou

Issa Hayatou has been seeking an eighth term as CAF head

"He is promising transparency in African football and wants to open up the CAF's books to public scrutiny," Kwenaite added.

Alexandre Zandamela, a sports analyst from Mozambique, notes that Chiyangwa has a good network of international contacts and could be very useful to Ahmad. On one recent occasion, Chiyangwa drummed up support for Ahmad while taking a swipe at Hayatou.

It was "a stab in the back disguised as a birthday party," which left Hayatou very annoyed, recalled Zandamela.

"Chiyangwa had invited numerous African association heads to the party. It was nothing but a promotional campaign for the CAF candidate from Madasgascar. The guests were influential football functionaries and included the head of FIFA, Gianni Infantino. Hayatou wasn't invited," Zandamela said.

Hayatou's influence appeared to be waning. Now aged 70, he used to be able to count on the support of the heads of the African national football associations. He has been elected head of the CAF seven times and has held the job since 1988.

Age limit

Many sports functionaries believed that Hayatou was no longer up to the job. Some said - when he was out of earshot - that he was an old man who no longer listened to other people. But Hayatou had shown no sign of quitting and an age limit for candidates was recently deleted from the CAF's statutes.

Issa Haytou (right) with ex-FIFA head Sepp Blatter

Issa Haytou (right) with ex-FIFA head Sepp Blatter

"There was always the rule that a candidate for the post of CAF president should be under 70. But shortly before Hayatou turned 70, the rules were changed so he could run again," Kwenaite told DW.

The list of corruption allegations leveled against Hayatou gets longer by the year. He found himself at the center of attention in the wake of the FIFA corruption scandal. A British newspaper reported that he received $1.5 million (1.4 million euros) to vote for Qatar when it was selected to host the 2022 World Cup seven years ago.

Televison rights

He was also alleged to have taken bribes from the sports marketing company ISL. But Hayatou was never short of excuses.

"He admitted that he received the money, but said he didn't want to keep it for himself," Kwenaite said.

When he was a member of the International  Olympics Committee (IOC), Hayatou told an IOC ethics commission he had spent the money on festivities marking CAF's 40th anniversary.

Even more serious is the scandal surrounding a deal with the French company Lagardere Sports. It involves the marketing of television rights worth around a billion dollars. The Egyptian Football Association says it intends to contest the deal in court because it represents a massive violation of competition law.                    

Alexandre Zandamela said many functionaries quietly distanced themselves from Hayatou a long time ago but were reluctant to announce this publicly.

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