Johannesburg - Those who attended the recent 39th CAF Ordinary General Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, say the bemused look on Issa Hayatou’s face was priceless when the results showed that he had lost to Ahmad Ahmad. The votes were 34 to 20 in Ahmad’s favour.
This spelt the end of more than two decades of rule by the iron-fisted Cameroonian – he became the head of African football in 1988.
Hayatou should have long ago seen the writing on the wall, but, as one thought leader once opined, “most of us can read the writing on the wall, we just assume it’s addressed to someone else”.
What culminated in Ahmad being elevated to the onerous position of CAF president started with a systematic removal of the old order in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa).
By the time the poll happened, 11 of the 14 Cosafa football associations were under a new leadership of presidents in their early or mid-50s (spring chickens in football administration terms, especially on the continent).
Leading the pack is the powerful and wealthy Dr Philip Chiyangwa (59), who is said to be worth about $288 million (R3.6 billion) – making him the sixth-richest man in Zimbabwe. He took over the reins at the Zimbabwe Football Association in December 2015 before ascending to the Cosafa seat unopposed last December.
With his election, which ended the 10-year reign of Seychellois Suketu Patel, a staunch Hayatou supporter and now deposed CAF vice-president, came that of Namibian Football Association president Frans Mbidi as vice-president.
The latter narrowly missed out on a seat in the CAF executive in the elections.
The other members who made it to the Cosafa executive were General Pedro Neto of Angola; Football Association of Zambia president Andrew Kamanga; Sameer Sobha of Mauritius; Alberto Simanga of Mozambique; and one of the old horses, Walter Nyamilandu-Manda of Malawi.
Nyamilandu-Manda is one of only three surviving presidents from the old Cosafa guard. The others are Adam “Bomber” Mthethwa of Swaziland and Salemane Phafane of Lesotho.
Ahmad (57) became the sixth CAF president since 1957 – after Abdelaziz Salem (Egypt), Mohamed Abdelaziz Mostafa (Egypt), Abdel Halim Mohamed (Sudan), Ydnekatchew Tessema (Ethiopia) and Hayatou – and the first from southern Africa.
Chiyangwa, who has been credited as being the main architect behind Hayatou’s downfall, told City Press a few days ago: “The time has come for all the spoils to be distributed equally across Africa. We could not keep on voting in this dictator to continue marginalising our region. A lot of changes will happen, but the new CAF executive will meet for the first time in a week, so it will be quite presumptuous for me to talk about the expected take-off just yet.”
The outspoken Mbidi, who has been in the football business for a long time – he has played, refereed, coached and served as a club chair – said: “The first step must be to ... improve the lot of our players. They are the main characters. For far too long, African football has been about individual administrators.
“Unless we improve our players’ lot, we will continue to play second fiddle to Europe and even Asia. We need to develop strong, well-sponsored leagues on the continent to prevent our players from moving to other parts of the world.”