18 December 2012

Africa: Hayatou Again!


Visibly ageing, Issa Hayatou has secured himself yet another term at the helm of African football literally taking his reign as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president close on three decades.

But what beats my understanding is the fact that 44 presidents of member federations within CAF signed a petition seeking to increase his term when his reign has been dogged with wild corruption accusations since the 90's.

But then again, it's become clear to me that in the CAF family, you are either with the CAF president, or you are considered an 'enemy' and excluded from all activities related to the continental body. So, most members of the Executive Committee, national football association Presidents and even members of CAF committees from various national associations have learnt to be completely loyal to Hayatou in order to continue to enjoy the benefits of their subservience.

Rule number one in CAF is to never have, or express, any speck of ambition to succeed Hayatou.

That's why the man from Cameroon has reigned and survived as President of a body representing 50 other countries in the continent for over 25 years!

Shortly before the last CAF elections on the eve of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, he publicly declared that after 2010 he would not contest the CAF Presidency again. He wanted all of Africa to support him for the election as his passing gift for helping to bring the World Cup to South Africa. That was to be his greatest legacy to African football. Africa obliged him.

Now, this is 2012 and the Cameroonian is not about to relinquish power. In a recent CAF Extraordinary General Meeting held in Seychelles, it became clear that Hayatou would do anything to go through unopposed.

Well aware that it was Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast coming after him, Hayatou was quick to pass a new rule that dictates future presidents can only be chosen from the ranks of the voting CAF executive committee members. This instantly ruled the Ivorian out of the contest because he does not belong to that group.

Anouma would have been only the third contender to take on Hayatou. The previous two elections were thrashings, first against the eccentric Armando Machedo of Angola in 2000 (who got four votes to Hayatou's 47) and the second versus Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana (46-6) in 2004.

But Anouma might have been a more credible challenger, especially with the support of his government.

What angers me most is not his schemes, but the spinelessness of 44 countries that supported the amendment of a rule that provides some kind of a level playing field for all, to be substituted by a new rule that excludes most, and provides the incumbent with dictatorial powers that can put him on the seat in perpetuity.

During Hayatou's early days, he was young, strong and vibrant; he served Africa well by providing African football with leadership that has been commended by many all over the continent. But after 25 years of holding on to power and recent reports that his health is failing, why does he still want to make himself indispensable to African football?

The amended rule endorsed in Seychelles is ridiculous because it narrows down the field to only 13 members of the committee.

Of course, Hayatou has done some wonderful things during his time like bringing the Fifa World Cup to Africa (South Africa), overseen successful World Cup appearances by Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon and pushed for African places in the finals to increase from two to five. The African Cup of Nations was also expanded from 8 to 16 teams during his reign while Club competitions have equally expanded and become big and lucrative.

But looking at the bigger picture, I'm afraid African football could be on a downward spiral.

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