The king was dead! Issa Hayatou voted out

The king was dead! Issa Hayatou voted out

July 31, 2020

On Hayatou’s watch, and despite a rising stream of income to African football associations from FIFA, the ufabet cupboard was always bare amongst CAF’s members, certainly when it came to paying football association staff, coaches and players.

Money raised from government to invest in infrastructure and development, as well as cash from sponsorship and TV deals, rarely found its way out of African houses of football. The stand-offs and strikes that have affected African World Cup squads in the last decade are just the most visible consequences of a great mountain of late pay, cut pay and bonuses siphoned off into the bank accounts of directors and their front companies.

In 2014, Ghana’s players refused to go on until they received their World Cup pay in cash in Brazil, a transaction that required the personal intervention of President John Dramani Mahama. In 2016, after coming first and third respectively in the women’s AFCON,

Nigeria’s Super Falcons had to march on the national assembly in Abuja to receive their due, while Ghana’s Black Queens had to stage a protest outside the Ministry of Sport in Accra to get their bonuses.5

Hayatou, predictably, saw none of this, exerted no pressure on Africa’s national associations, demanded no reform. Was he so busy not looking that he did not glimpse his own fall coming? In 2012, the Ivorian Jacques Anouma had the temerity to mount a challenge.

Hayatou dispatched him by having CAF’s statutes changed so that only members of the executive committee could stand for the presidency. Anouma was not on the committee. In April 2015, the CAF statutes were changed again, this time removing the age limit of seventy for a president. This allowed Hayatou, due to be seventy a year before the next election, to put himself forward for yet another term.

By now, his health and faculties were failing him. A man whose style was ambulatory at best, he survived a kidney transplant only to come to a complete halt. In 2015, when stand-in President of FIFA after Sepp Blatter’s fall, he fell asleep at his own press conference. There was a gathering storm of accusations, too.

He had survived revelations that he had received a payment of $100,000 from the marketing company ISL as part of its acquisition of World Cup rights from FIFA. Hayatou admitted receiving the money, but always said he used it to pay for a celebration of CAF’s ยูฟ่าเบท fortieth anniversary in 1997. We await the accounts.

Suspicions were raised when CAF refused to announce the actual amount it was receiving from the oil company Total, one of its new sponsors. Simultaneously, the Egyptian public prosecutor announced that the deal Hayatou had done with French broadcaster Lagardère for the CAF Champions League had broken Egyptian law.

In the fight to replace Blatter at FIFA, he backed Sheikh Salman, who turned out to be the wrong horse. The winner, Gianni Infantino, handed out a dose of Hayatou’s own medicine and stripped him of his place on the powerful finance committee.

Thus, in 2017, already weakened, he faced a real challenge from the head of the Madagascan FA Ahmad Ahmad and his pugnacious Zimbabwean campaign manager Phillip Chiyangwa, a property developer with good ZANU-PF credentials who became president of the Zimbabwean FA in 2015 and was gunning for Hayatou from the off.

The two had the votes of the Southern African region sewn up, and they found plenty of people who Hayatou had snubbed, excluded or overlooked in his ruthless allocation of patronage, especially inanglophone Africa. Hayatou responded by cancelling Madagascar’s hosting of the U-17 African championships, and CAF sent intimidating if vacuous letters to Chiyangwa claiming he had transgressed all kinds of statutes.

When the votes were counted, the king was dead, comprehensively beaten 34–20. It was hardly the herald of a new dawn in African football, or a real changing of the guard. The optimistic might argue that it was at least the end of the kind of endless torpor, decay and inertia over which Africa’s morbid presidents have presided, but no one was counting on it. If there is life in African football we are unlikely to find it here.