Another of the old guard of world football has fallen. Cameroonian strongman Issa Hayatou was rarely challenged in his 29 years at the helm of the Condeferation of African Football (Caf) and has been credited with transforming the finances of the game on the continent and increasing African representation at the World Cup.
However, he has been deposed by little known Ahmad Ahmad, the president of the Madagascar Football Association, who garnered 34 votes to Hayatou’s 22 at Caf’s congress in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday. The writing was on the wall for Hayatou after he backed Fifa President Gianni Infantino’s rival candidate, the Bahrain royal Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, in the historic post-Sepp Blatter election.
The 57-year-old Ahmad is a former Malagasy sports minister, player, coach and has represented the South zone in the executive committee of CAF since 2013. Initially reluctant to make a challenge, he was persuaded to run for the presidency by his allies and was elected on a manifesto promising good governance and transparency, smart development and to use football as “a lever for economical development and a tool to reach social stability”.
His rise to the CAF presidency represents a power shift in African football from the Francophone north and west to his powerbase in the south. It remains to be seen how Ahmad will manage the concerns of disgruntled smaller footballing nations, improve on the work of his predecessor in improving finances and negotiate increased African representation in the expanded, 48-team 2026 Fifa World Cup.
Meanwhile, Safa chief Danny Jordaan won a seat on the CAF executive after pulling out of contesting a similar position with Fifa. Jordaan has long intimidated that his priority was a role with the governing body of African football.