Antananarivo - Madagascar's football boss Ahmad who is
challenging the long-serving Issa Hayatou for the CAF presidency in March,
wants less political interference in the African game.
First elected in 1988, Cameroonian Hayatou, 70, is seeking
an eighth consecutive term as head of the body that governs African football.
"If people want change there is no other choice. Only I
can dare (to challenge Hayatou)," Ahmad said during an interview at the
Madagascar Football Federation offices in Antananarivo.
The mononymous Ahmad, whose single name means "the
glorious" in Arabic, wants to break with Hayatou long reign, which critics
"My program is the reform of the administration of CAF
to avoid the involvement of politics in the organisation," said the father
of two who was born 57 years ago in a north western Malagasy village.
He is confident of support from 13 of the 14 countries of
COSAFA, the southern Africa umbrella football body which includes Madagascar.
Doubts persist as to whether South Africa will back the
outsider as their football president Danny Jordaan is close to Hayatou.
The Cameroonian has been challenged for the presidency only twice,
with both rivals coming from southern Africa, and he inflicted humiliating
defeats on Armando Machado of Angola and Ismael Bhamjee of Botswana.
Most observers believe Ahmad poses a greater threat to
Hayatou (a former international middle-distance athlete) but he remains the
He did receive a significant boost this week, though, with
west African football powerhouse Nigeria publicly backing him.
Elected in 2003 as head of Malagasy football, the former
player and coach guarantees "transparency in the management" of CAF
and an end to "obsolete practices".
Hayatou was criticised by the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) in 2011 for involvement in a corruption case connected to ISL,
the former marketing arm of world football body FIFA.
Ahmad was named by English newspaper the Sunday Times
regarding allegations of corruption surrounding the award of the 2022 World Cup
The newspaper reported that he received between $30 000 and
$100 000 in exchange for influencing CAF delegates to
back Qatar, but provided no proof.
"I simply asked for financial aid to organise the
elections of the Malagasy federation," explained Ahmad. "It was not
in exchange for support."
In January, Ahmad suffered a slap in the face when CAF
stripped Madagascar of the right to host the Africa U17 Cup of Nations
scheduled for April.
While CAF said the huge Indian Ocean island had fallen
behind schedule in preparing for the eight-nation tournament, Ahmed believes it
was a "political manoeuvre".
"We lost the organising rights just after I declared
myself a candidate for the presidency," he noted.
In addition to transparency and change, the Malagasy wishes
to draw on his local experience to govern CAF.
"We must seek to diversify the disciplines, as we did
in Madagascar with beach soccer, winning the continental title (in 2015),"
Under a change introduced last year, CAF presidents are
restricted to three four-year terms, starting from March.