SPORT: The end of the reign of ‘Emperor’ Issa Hayatuo

Caf President, Issa Hayatou hosts a media round table during the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations Caf President Issa Hayatou round table press briefing at the Sandton Sun hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa on February 08, 2013©Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix


By James Agwu


The twenty nine years leadership of Issa Hayatuo as president of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, came to an end at the 39th CAF general assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 16. Replacing Mr. Hayatuo is the president of Madagascar Football Republic, Mr. Ahmad Ahmad.

Mr. Hayatuo has never been openly challenged by any candidate in time past. The power of incumbency had always enabled him to get over previous election that saw him remain CAF president for good 29 years.

Good campaign strategy and fresh experience in modern football style has made what looked impossible proven to be so simple to get over. 54 countries participated in the election and Ahmad beat Hayatuo by 34 to 20 votes to emerge winner and the new face of African football.

The CAF election is majorly determined by the Francophone and Anglophone countries. While Ahmad is Anglophone, Hayatuo is Francophone but also speak English. Both contestants were involved in very serious campaign ahead of the election, with Ahmad visiting Nigeria to seek for vote.

The Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, as led by Mr. Amaju Pinnick, whom also won his rival Anjorin Moucharafou, the head of the Benin Republic Football Federation by 32 to 17 votes to secure a seat into the CAF executive committee, supported Ahmad over Hayatuo for the CAF presidency.


A little CAF history

The Confederation of African Football was formed at the 29th FIFA Congress in Switzerland in June 1954. Africa was represented at the congress by the national football associations of Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Africa, which had joined FIFA in 1923, 1948, 1953 and 1952 respectively.

It was at the congress that Africa was recognized by the FIFA executive committee and Egypt’s Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem was elected first CAF president.

Hayatuo is the fifth president of CAF. Born in Garoua Cameroun, the son of a local Sultan, he became a distance runner and physical education teacher. He became a member of a Cameroonian national squad in both basketball and athletics and held national records in 400 and 800 meters running.

Hayatuo became the secretary general of the Cameroun Football Association and chair of the FA in 1987. This qualified him to sit on the CAF executive committee and then following the retirement of Ethiopian Yidnekatchew Tessema from the CAF presidency in August 1987, he was elected president.


Hayatuo’s achievements

As CAF president Hayatuo successfully oversaw FIFA world cup appearances with Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroun and pushed for Africa’s ranking to be increased from two to five places. With the 2010 world cup in South Africa this gave the host an automatic spot that increased to six spot for Africa.

Hayatou presided over both the bid and the organizing committee for the 2010 world cup, the first in Africa. The Africa cup of nation expanded from eight to sixteen teams; club competition underwent a similar growth in both numbers and scales, and with more clubs participating in the African Champions league, CAF cup and Super cup. The industry also saw an expansion with CAF overseen youth, women and beach soccer competition.

However, many sport men and women up until the election that saw Ahmad become president had called on Hayatuo to honorably resign and give way for fresh young blood with new ideas to control football affairs in Africa.

An Abuja based sports enthusiast, John Audu, had told this magazine that even though he admired Mr. Hayatuo’s achievements, he still would want him to “leave” CAF alone. “We are tired of his leadership” he added.

Other responses gathered suggested that many sports enthusiasts were tired of seeing the same face as CAF president and favored not only a new face but a younger person to bring fresh ideas to the sports in Africa. The coach of an Abuja-based football club, Mr. Okem Ajine, felt didn’t like it that Hayatuo was contesting but was confident the result would favor Mr. Ahmad. And it did.


The future of CAF

Ahmad’s presidency has a manifesto that includes restructuring the ancient principles that are no longer in tune with how games are governed globally; to bring CAF closer to its affiliated member associations; introduce separation of power (excess power is vested in the executive), and finally to reform the administrative process and instill transparency and accountability.

President Ahmad has also promised an administrative style that will include financial transparency, promoting youth and women football, and has pledged to share the burden of CAF finances with the president of member associations. This body called the Special College of President will meet twice a year and would outline the various rules and general operations of CAF, adding that competition will be renovated and improved.

For football enthusiasts on the continent, Ahmad as CAF president brings the question will his (Ahmad’s) leadership contribute to the growth of African football? Judging from Ahmad’s vision as outlined above, there appears to be a bright future for African football. MA