• FAM president keeps cards close to his chest

Confederation of African Football (CAF) will today elect a new president in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and for the first time since he came into power 29 years ago, incumbent Issa Hayatou faces a challenger in Ahmad Ahmad who can make the Cameroonian run for his money.

Only twice before has the Cameroonian been challenged, but he mercilessly crushed his opponents.

Has been at the helm
for 29 years: Hayatou

In 2000, Hayatou beat Angolan Armando Machado by 47 votes to four and in 2004 he swept 46 votes against six for his challenger Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana.

But this time, 70-year-old Hayatou seems to have lost the potency he had 10 years ago as the winds of change seem to be blowing towards the continent.

The run up to the elections has revealed the incumbent’s shaky confidence as he went to town using every trick in the book to nip the opposition in the bud, but to no avail.

Ahmad’s campaign director, Cosafa president Phillip Chiyangwa, faces disciplinary action for inviting all CAF members to his birthday party in Zimbabwe which the Hayatou camp construed as a campaign gimmick.

Ahmad has also not been spared. CAF yesterday stripped Madagascar off hosting rights for the 2017 Under-17 Afcon finals which many felt is a plot to demoralise his camp.

But Ahmad still rides on the back of the 14-member Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) members who are expected to support ‘one of their own’.

Although Malawi is an affiliate of Cosafa, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said he would decide on who to vote for after scrutinising both candidates’ manifestos.

“I arrived last night [Tuesday] and I haven’t had time to interact with the candidates. My preliminary assessment shows that it’s going to be a tight race. I will have a clear picture about which candidate to vote for by the end of the day,” he said.

“At the moment, there is tension with lots of uncertainty. There is no front-runner at this stage and it will not be a stroll in the park for either of them.”

There have also been suggestions that Ahmad has a bloc of support from East and Central Africa.

“It’s time we introduced a new regime. We have to follow the path of the rest of the world, as Africa cannot afford to be left behind. I believe that Africa is ready for change. This is the first time in the history of [Hayatou’s] CAF that there is a real and possible challenge to the leadership,” Liberian Football Association president Musa Bility was quoted by www.vanguardngr.com.

John Vigah, a journalist with Ghana Times, says Hayatou has served his purpose.

“I think  Hayatou has done his damn best for African football; there is no scintilla of doubt about that assertion but, it’s high time that he left for a fresh breeze of life; African football now needs a much younger person with fresh, buoyant ideas to propel the game to a different level,” said Vigah.

But Hayatou still has the support from the French-speaking African countries, particularly in the West and North Africa.

His camp argues that he has guided CAF in increasing Afcon teams from eight to 16 and Africa’s World Cup representatives from two to five. He also gets credit for introduction of the Chan which is for domestic league players only.

One Hayatou’s campaigners Amos Adamu, a former CAF executive member himself, has said Hayatou’s experience cannot be toyed with.

Said Adamu: “Madagascar? Have you ever seen them in any Cup of Nations? Have you ever seen them in any Fifa competition? How many are they in their country? Anyway, in an election, anything can happen, but I will not support Madagascar against Hayatou.”

But after all is said and done it will come to 54 men and one woman—the presidents of CAF affiliates—that will decide the destiny of Africa football.

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