The election of a new ex­ecutive committee for the 60-year-old Con­federation of African Football (CAF) has come and gone. By it, the reign of 70-year-old Cameroonian Issa Hayatou as its 5th president has come to an end after an uninterrupted 29 years. Elected to the exalted of­fice at its 1988 congress, he was to win re-election to the post for an unprecedented six times before the – well – debacle. All the more so because he did not fall alone – from the records he went down with six of his allies in an election that virtually saw soccer enthusiasts in the entire continent heaving a sigh of re­lief.
Like turned out, his place has since been taken over by the diminutive former head of the Football Federation of Mada­gascar Ahmad Ahmad. Mostly known by the single of his dou­ble-barrel name, a la Brazilian footballers, the 57 year-old Mal­agasy had swept to power on the single promise that he would modernize the body and as well make its running more trans­parent. As hollow as it sounds, it nonetheless met the aspira­tions of many of his listeners and would-be voters.
As many observers have pos­ited, his emergence is an unbi­ased gut reaction by the major­ity of the representatives in the more-than-fifty-federations -strong confederation to his predecessors overstay in office. This alone, even on face value, had tempted to inflict it with rigor mortis in more ways than one. Promised reforms were presumptuously swept under the carpet as allegations of cor­ruption formerly whispered in closets became headline news. Put straight and sharp, an un­stoppable wind of change no sooner encapsulated the body.
Interestingly, the lot was be­lieved to have fallen on Ahmad when he became the only one in the old executive commit­tee worthy of wearing the cap. This, like turned out, followed Hayatou’s later ploy – termed manipulative in quarters – that only them were qualified to contest against him. Thus, in a plan generally believed to have been hatched as the president of our federation Amaju Pinnick hosted FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Abuja, it was clear that Hayatou’s days as CAF president were numbered. Like it did appear, almost anybody else could have run and won given the level of discontent that trailed his last days in the office. Even leading to the Nige­rian Football Federation (NFF) openly working against the di­rective by the sports minister on account of the cooperation Nigeria was getting from Cam­eroon in the Boko Haram war.
And this is why the new man has a hill to climb. Chosen as randomly as pundits have sur­mised, the onus is on him to prove his mettle at least in the first four years – 2017-2021 – he will serve before seeking re-election. This is because he was never free from the most heinous charge of corruption heaped on Hayatou to dethrone him. Yes, he was out-rightly ac­cused of having received a speci­fied amount of money – though less than that allegedly offered his predecessor – to vote for the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid.
Tarred with same brush as they are, therefore, Mr Ahmad – written once or repeated – has the advantage of starting on a reasonably clean slate – all the more so given the transparency war on at FIFA presently. Hav­ing swept the last president Sepp Blatter and his cohorts aside, it is hoped that any forthright football administrator in all the confederations now has the best pedestal to perform, unlike pre­viously. Therefore, Ahmad has to mindful of the fact that to whom more is given, more is expected.
The truth told, whatever negative things are said of Hayatou’s reign, it is on record that he did his utmost on the seat well before the inevitable last of the days. Not only did he run for FIFA presidency in 2002 following his alliance with the Europeans – losing to Blatter 139 to 56 votes – but actually ended up being acting-president from a better part of 2015 to February 2016 as the cleanup ensued. It is also in the record books that it was under his watch at CAF that Africa’s representation at the various World Cups – senior, junior, women and beach – became more than attempts to add a comic relief to the competition like the magazine World Soccer once termed it.
Finally, it is our view here at The Authority that the NFF should not relent in following up on Ahmad given the pivotal role they played in his ascen­sion. Like all realized changes the world over, the present achievement ought to be seen as a beginning rather than an end in itself. This, we believe, is the only way the many improve­ments attained under Hayatou’s watch can be built upon to the glory of the beautiful game of football in the country, conti­nent and the world over. The Authority