By MONTAGE AFRICA MAGAZINE
If you live in this part of the globe (Africa) and you are sports inclined (or not) you most likely would have heard the name Issa Hayatou the current CAF (Confederation of African Football) president and very recently appointed acting FIFA president following the 90 days suspension (and a possible 45 days extension) of FIFA president Sepp Blatter over corruption charges. So, who is Issa Hayatou?
Hayatou who is the fifth president of the Confederation of African Football was born on the 9th of August 1946 in Garoua, Cameroon, to an influential Sultanate family. His love for sports was eminent as he became an athlete for his country in the middle distance races and holds a national record in the 400 and 800-meters. He was also a member of the Cameroonian national squad in Basketball and later a physical education teacher.
His journey to becoming the president of CAF started in 1974 when only 28 years, he became Secretary General of the Cameroon Football Association, and later Chair of the FA in 1986. As chair, he was chosen that same year to sit on the CAF Executive Committee and following the retirement of the then CAF’s President Ydnekatchew Tessema from Ethiopia in August 1987, he was elected as the fifth president, a position he still holds till date.
As president of the federation for over two decades, notable amongst his achievements is the rise of African places at the World Cup finals from two to five, an agenda he pushed. The continents first successful World Cup hosted by South Africa in 2010 was another high point in his administration as he presided over both the bid and organizing committee. The African Cup of Nations finals has also been expanded from 8 to 16 teams under his reign while Club competitions have undergone similar growth in both numbers and scale, with more clubs participating in the African Cup of Champions Clubs, the CAF Confederation Cup, the CAF Cup, and the CAF Super Cup. There has also been an expansion outside men’s football, with CAF overseeing Youth Women’s Football and Beach soccer competitions.
Following his negotiations with UEFA in September 1997, Hayatou saw to the payment of fees to African governing bodies and clubs for African-born players working in Europe. This was followed by the Meridian Project signed in December 1997 with UEFA, which was to provide cash payments to African National Associations every other year, and created the UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup. The 1999 Goal Project was another notable achievement created with FIFA; it gave 46 African FAs financial support worth one million dollars for over four years.
In 1990, he became a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee and in 1992 became vice president FIFA (a position he still holds) and president Organizing Committee of the Football Olympic Tournaments of FIFA until 2006. In 2001 Hayatou was elected as a member of the international Olympic Committee and contested in 2002 against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency but lost, claiming 56 votes to the Swiss’ 139.
Sadly however, in 2010 a BBC Panorama programme alleged that he Hayatou had taken bribes back in the 1990s regarding the awarding of contracts for the sale of television rights to the football World Cup. They claimed that Hayatou received a payment of 100,000 French Francs from a company called ISL, who won the rights to show the World Cup. Hayatou denied the allegations and claimed that the money went to CAF.
In May 2011 in a similar scenario, the Sunday Times published claimed from a whistle-blower that Hayatou had along with fellow Executive Committee member Jacques Anouma, accepted $1.5 million bribes from Qatar to secure his support for their bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
This honorary degree awardee from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Nigeria has no doubt had an outstanding career and has contributed immensely to the development of football in Africa. Even though he has said he would not be a candidate for the FIFA presidency when the Extraordinary Congress conveys on 26 February 2016, we wish him the very best as he serves in an interim position as president of FIFA.