By Andrew Warshaw
September 30 – Issa Hayatou (pictured), the all-powerful, old-school and often controversial ruler of African football who was in temporary charge of FIFA until the election of Gianni Infantino, has won another significant victory in his bid to retain control of the region he has run for the last 28 years.
As the Confederation of African Football (CAF) attempted to play up the election of its two new members to sit on the recently established ruling FIFA Council, of far more significance at Thursday’s Congress in Cairo was the rejection of a proposal from Djibouti to end a rule, introduced just four years ago, that restricts potential candidates for the top job only to members of CAF’s 12-man executive committee.
The highly contentious statute – which even bans FA Presidents from going for the presidency – has been seen as a deliberate attempt by Hayatou both to hand pick his successor and, if he wishes, extend his own term of office.
The Djibouti motion had specifically sought to repeal the regulation passed by the same membership in Seychelles back in 2012. Yet the proposal was defeated after failing to gain the backing of at least 75% of the votes cast among CAF’s 53 members, some sources suggesting that not all federations voted according to their consciences.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Hayatou is losing the regional unity he is so keen to maintain. While 32 federations shot down the Djibouti proposal, a significant 16 were in favour with five abstentions, a clear indication of a split in the membership. The voting was by show of hands despite protest from Liberia FA boss Musa Bility who wanted a secret ballot.
In terms of FIFA Council membership, Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi and Guinea’s CAF vice-president Almamy Kabele Camara were elected to fill the two new CAF seats, bringing to seven the number of Africans on the 36-strong Council which holds its first session on October 13-14. The duo join Hayatou, Hani Abo Rida (Egypt), Constant Omari (DR Congo), Tarek Bouchamaoui (Tunisia) and Lydia Nsekera (Burundi).
Kabele and Nyantakyi, who will hold their positions for a transitional period until March when they face re-election at the next CAF Congress, tallied 37 votes and 31 votes respectively to overcome Ahmad (Madagascar), also a member of the CAF Executive Committee, who just missed out by securing 30 votes. Augustin Senghor of Senegal polled nine.
As per protocol, FIFA president Gianni Infantino was present at the Congress, accompanied by his new General Secretary, Fatma Samoura.
After being snubbed by the Asians a few days earlier, Infantino found himself in less hostile territory as he championed the development of African football and promised that the region would “benefit most” from FIFA’s investment programme.
He also revealed that Africa would have “at least two more slots” under his 40-team World Cup plan, partially no doubt as a thank you to those African nations who voted him into office last February.
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