YEAR 2017: How Ahmad brought to an end Hayotou’s reign at Caf
On that fateful day at the Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall, African Union new headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, little known Ahmad Ahmad successfully ousted Issa Hayatou from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidency.
The man from Madagascar, a nation whose football history is like a drop in the ocean compared to Hayatou’s Cameroon, meticulously organized unprecedented ‘coup’ at the CAF topmost office garnering close to two-thirds of the total votes cast.
His victory ended the 29 years rule of the Cameroonian football strongman, as the wave of football change swept across the world, sparing not even Africa
Notably, Gianni Infantino, the president of the world football governing body FIFA was at the Ethiopian capital to witness the intrigues of the 39th CAF Ordinary Assembly, whose climax was the elections.
“Change is good, especially when it is done for the good. Africa has spoken, and I believe this is in line with our vision to change the old talk that the future of football is in Africa, and instead say the future is here.
“Hayatou has contributed immensely in the history of football in Africa and world at large; his contributions will never be forgotten whenever football history is written,” the Fifa boss said then.
On his part, Hayatou had not foreseen a scenario where Ahmad would triumph over him, and insisted his advanced age was inconsequential as far as football management was concerned.
“Age does not incapacitate anyone in management; many FIFA presidents have served in their late seventies and above.
“I spoke without fear of contradiction in interest of African football even at the highest level because no one thought of our place in the global stage of the game. It is my hope the incoming leadership will jealously guard the continent’s interest for the progress of what we have done,” Hayatou emotionally told Citizen Digital in the night of his farewell.
For Ahmad, it was a victory for Africa and not for the former Senate member in Madagascar’s Upper House.
“I come to bring inclusivity; decisions will not be made by few individuals without taking into account what other stakeholders feel.
“We have won all, and now we embark on a new journey of renewed partnerships with every player in the industry including governments for the good of all,” Ahmad charged.
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa had nothing to hide, saying Kenya was for change.
“This (change of guard) is what is happening in the entire world. We are new office back at home (Kenya), FIFA and UEFA have new leaderships, and now CAF has followed in the change.
“I can reveal that we (Kenya) are winners with president Ahmad, and I’m proud to be part of this,” Mwendwa said.
Ahmad had a well laid down campaign strategy, aided by influential football federation heads in different zones.
He visited almost half of the countries in Africa campaigning before the polls, sometimes secretly to ensure Hayatou’s camp did not preempt his tactics.
At the Bole International in Addis Ababa, delegates arriving for the assembly were received by his team before the other camp could realise it, with more lobbying taking place at the Hilton Hotel, away from the Hotel Sheraton that was designated for the FA heads by CAF.
This was the business until late on the eve of the election, with some elite journalists also taking part.
The end of the script was a new CAF, new president, but Hayatou remains a honorary president, and his permanent place at FIFA will always be as long as he lives.
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