By Andrew Warshaw
February 16 – Issa Hayatou’s quest to hang on to power at the helm of African football has taken another jolt with the news that the highly influential Nigerian FA is backing his rival for the leadership.
Last weekend, COSAFA, the 14-strong Council of Southern African Football Association who represent a quarter of Africa’s members, unanimously endorsed Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad (sic) to succeed Hayatou at next month’s election in Ethiopia.
Zimbabwe’s highly ambitious Phillip Chiyangwa, who heads COSAFA, is leading the fight to unseat the veteran FIFA vice-president from Cameroon, who has been in charge since 1998, and has called a meeting of African FA presidents for February 24 in Harare, much to the anger of the Confederation of African Football administration.
Ahmad believes he has already garnered enough support to see off the veteran Hayatou and told a radio broadcast on Wednesday that he now also had the backing of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President Amaju Pinnick. “He is a close ally and belongs to the group that wants change in African football administration,” said Ahmad.
The Madagascan FA chief insisted his bid to succeed Hayatou, who has had health issues in recent months, was nothing personal but simply to breathe new life into the confederation, something reportedly supported by FIFA president Gianni Infantino who was in Zimbabwe last weekend and has been in Qatar for the last couple of days at a summit with Asian federations.
Ahmad argues that CAF’s Executive Committee wields too much political influence on deciding hosts for CAF competitions and wants the entire membership to have an input. It has not gone unnoticed that the CAF exco last month withdrew hosting rights to the 2017 under-17 Nations Cup from Ahmad’s native Madagascar, a decision linked by some observers to his bid to end Hayatou’s reign.
“I’m preparing for the CAF election like any other election. We want change in the Confederation. We need a reform in the finance programme of CAF,” insisted Ahmad. “We want ex-footballers to join the body. “I’m not going after Issa Hayatou or replacing him, the goal is to change the system.”
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