CAF Elects New President—The African Continent Rejoices

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Ahmad Ahmad being lifted by supporters at AU headquarters in Ethiopia, March 16

The Confederation of African Football (CAF), responsible for organizing the African Cup of Nations, elected a new president on March 16 at the Africa Union headquarters in Ethiopia.  He is Madagascar’s Vice-President of the Senate, Ahmad Ahmad.  Ahmad, 57, was also the leader of the Madagascar Football Federation.

He defeated longtime CAF President, Issa Hayatou of Cameroon.

There has been a lot of news going around about this story. Some of the headlines screamed with relief following Hayatou’s long tenure at both CAF, as well as the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The interesting thing I noticed is not about the man who was elected as the new leader of CAF, but the story line of the other man who got kicked out. Despite his achievements as the head of the organization, Hayatou was the symbol of some of the challenges the African continent faces: entrenched leadership. As the transformation of the continent or lack thereof continues, in this case, we see clear parallels between African sports and politics.

Many analysts have voiced their thoughts about this.

“Hayatou was seeking a record eight straight terms in office. The Cameroonian was first elected to head the largest member of FIFA, the world’s football governing body, in March 1988,” according to the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper.

On this subject, The Economist said the process leading to Ahmad’s election “reads like the history of many African nations since independence 60-odd years ago.” Describing Hayatou’s defeat as a shock and saying this was “only the third time” he had been challenged, the magazine characterized his defeat this way:

“He had clung to power for almost three decades. This is nearly as long as Paul Biya, a friend of the Hayatou family and Cameroon’s president, who has been in charge since 1982. CAF has had five presidents since it was established in 1957, the same number as Ivory Coast, one of the continent’s footballing powerhouses, over the same period.”

The British Vanguard described Hayatou’s defeat as “a deposition.”

“Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for an era spanning 29 years and a senior administrator at Fifa throughout its years of corruption scandals, has finally been deposed, suffering defeat in CAF’s presidential election.”

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