‘Strong-willed’ Hayatou defends CAF tenure

Deposed CAF President Issa Hayatou (C) at the 39th Ordinary General Assembly in Addis Ababa, ...
Deposed CAF President Issa Hayatou (C) at the 39th Ordinary General Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (PHOTO/Jacob Icia)

Deposed Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou cited his resoluteness in defending African football affairs as one of the unique achievements of his 29-year rule.

Hayatou who lost his bid for an eighth straight term as CAF President to Ahmad Ahmad said being strong-willed and standing up against other top world football leaders for the sake of African football counted for some of the best moments of his tenure.

“I have a long list of things I can tell the world I’m proud of. It’s not a secret I have overseen massive growth of our football than any other CAF leader.

“The moments I consider special are however those I would say no to other leaders whenever I felt our interests were being undermined,” the Cameroonian told Citizen Digital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia just after learning of his loss to Ahmad at the CAF 39th Ordinary General Assembly.

In 2002, Hayatou contested against former world football governing body FIFA boss Sepp Blatter for the presidency but lost, claiming 56 votes as the Swiss garnered a resounding 139.

That was seen as the strongest opposition an African would offer against European and American football leaders.

“Agreeing on issues is great, but disagreeing is greater if the disagreement is for a worthy course. I wish this spirit can continue where leaders lead without being afraid to take a stand and telling the rest what you believe in.

“To say I love football is an understatement, and the best gift any football leader can to Africa is standing tall against any external influence when it demands,” Hayatou charged.

In his last speech at the Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall just before elections, Hayatou advised delegates not to confuse rights for favors, seemingly addressing current FIFA President Gianni Infantino who was present and who had thrown his weight behind his challenger Ahmad.

“We must increase the number of African teams in FIFA tournaments. Our results confirm we deserve it. Africans must decide the future of African football. How comes we have 54 member associations, and there are now only two FIFA offices in Africa.

“We have no explanation why FIFA reduced their offices in Africa,” Hayatou who had a sour relationship with Infantino stated.

Born in Garoua, Cameroon on August 9 1946, the former basketball player and a middle-distance runner got into football leadership in 1974 as the country’s Football Federation Secretary General.

He was just 28, and would rise to the top-most CAF position 13 years later, and also lead FIFA on interim basis after the unceremonious exit of Blatter in 2015.

Now, he remains an honorary CAF president, a title he will hold for as long as he lives.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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