- Hayatou is seeking an eighth term as head of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in an election on Thursday.
- The 70-year-old Cameroonian defied his royal roots early on when he chose sport as a career.
- This Caf election will be the first in which he has faced a serious challenge.
Cameroonian septuagenarian Issa Hayatou is once again favourite to win the Confederation of African Football presidency when the continental body holds its polls in Addis Ababa Thursday.
But he will face his biggest threat yet in his 29-year, iron-fisted reign of African football.
Madagascar’s football boss, Ahmed Ahmad, is challenging Hayatou for CAF’s top position and it has been said that he has the backing of Fifa boss Gianni Infantino who wants to see new leadership in Africa.
“If people want change there is no other choice. Only I can dare (to challenge Hayatou). My programme is the reform of the administration of Caf to avoid the involvement of politics in the organisation,” the 57-year-old Ahmad said in an earlier interview with AFP.
But, ironically, his campaign has already taken political dimensions.
Firstly, some 24 heads of African football associations attended an event hosted by Zimbabwe FA boss and president of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa), Phillip Chiyangwa — Ahmad’s campaign manager.
The event was ostensibly to celebrate Chiyangwa’s 58th birthday, but it is not lost to observers that Cosafa has pledged to vote en masse for Ahmed.
Caf, in fact, wanted the meeting called off charging it was geared towards destabilizing the African body.
Then just two weeks back, Nigeria Sports minister Solomon Dalung unilaterally contradicted Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick’s asserting that Ahmed was their preferred candidate by saying the giant African nation would vote for “their interest” — read support their Cameroonian neighbour.
Dalung said Hayatou was a pillar for African football and had made immerse contributions to its growth.
Closer at home, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa has been heard talking about the need for change in African football leadership, but is yet to publicly state who Kenya will vote for.
In contrast, the 12-member Council for East and Central African Football Associations, that FKF is affiliated to, has been rather forthright in who their man is.
At an extraordinary meeting held in Libreville on February 4, on the sides of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations that was on going then in Gabon, Cecafa members unanimously expressed and reiterated their support for the candidature of Hayatou and urged members in other zones to rally behind the veteran football leader.
Cecafa secretary General Nicholas Musonye — a long time Hayatou diehard — has pleaded with regional FA’s to evaluate Hayatou’s achievements and appreciate what he has done.
The long-serving Cecafa Secretary General noted that the Cameroonian President has been a good friend of the council for many years.
Hayatou, 70, has been quietly doing his campaign, and his record does speak for itself.