Johannesburg - Issa Hayatou’s downfall was orchestrated in South Africa – it was during the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) congress at Sun City that it was decided the region would support Ahmad Ahmad in his bid to oust Hayatou.
The meeting was on December 10–11 2016.
The 57-year-old Madagascar FA chief won 34 votes to Hayatou’s 20 to end the Cameroonian’s 29-year reign and herald the beginning of a new era.
Upon his arrival from the CAF congress in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on Friday, an elated SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan claimed responsibility for Hayatou’s axing, boasting the region was at the forefront of Hayatou’s downfall.
He said Cosafa’s call for a change had been speedily embraced by the continent.
“Cosafa played a tremendous role in supporting the drive for change, including having a party in Zimbabwe,” said Jordaan on Friday.
Time for work
He was quick to dismiss talk that Fifa president Gianni Infantino played a huge role in the elections.
“I don’t think you must take away the hard work of the people on the continent. He was not there in Sun City and, all of a sudden, we must give him the credit,” Jordaan said.
He said African powerhouses such as South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria must play a more decisive role in determining and shaping the future of African football.
“There was an agreement for change, and Morocco, Egypt and many other west African countries supported it. It was an African issue, not necessarily an Anglophone matter.”
Jordaan, who amassed 35 votes to get a seat on the executive, said the time for work had arrived.
“There is no time to celebrate the victory because the hard work starts now. We must roll up our sleeves and get on with it. One of the things we are looking for at CAF is a more balanced approach, where everybody must feel there is a place and space in African football,” Jordaan said.
Former Safa president Molefi Oliphant summed it up when he said it was the end of an era.
Oliphant, who has served in the CAF executive for 15 years, said the time for change was now.
He said he had no doubt that Jordaan’s expertise would come in handy to the football leadership on the continent.
“He deserves a place in the leadership and I have no doubt he will add value there,” said Oliphant, who still has two more years to serve on the executive.
Most felt that, after ruling the sport on the continent since 1988, Hayatou had overstayed his welcome and that change was necessary.
Ahmad has his work cut out for him if he is to succeed in the hot seat.
Here are five issues the new leadership needs to work on:
The first thing Ahmad needs to do is unite the warring factions as it is clear the continent is divided.
The 20 countries that voted for Hayatou should not feel excluded because of their vote.
The new leadership must be transparent in their dealings to win the federations’ confidence. Everything must be done above board to ensure good governance. Most importantly, more funds must be channelled towards development, as this is the future of the sport in Africa.
World Cup spots
The new leadership must ensure that the continent gets at least 10 spots in the new expanded 48-team World Cup format from 2026. With 55 member countries (Zanzibar was added during this recent congress), the continent should have more representatives to narrow the gap with Europe, which will surely get a few more spots.
CAF competitions format
There is a need to review all CAF competitions and the number of teams qualifying for tournaments. It is about time the number of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers increased to at least 24, which would give countries that have so far been unable to qualify a chance to go to the finals. Uefa has already increased clubs to 24 for the European Championship, and the Fifa World Cup will have 48 from 2026.
One of the thorny issues on the continent has been aligning continental competitions with Fifa ones. While Fifa events (World Cup and Confederation Cup) are always in June and July, CAF has always insisted on scheduling the Africa Cup of Nations in January and February. As a result, European-based players are forced to either withdraw from their countries or miss the clubs’ matches. Only a uniform calendar could solve this club-versus-country issue.