HARARE – Ahmad Ahmad is the new Confederation of African Football president after stunning the long-serving Issa Hayatou in yesterday’s elections in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Madagascar Football Association president polled a total of 34 votes against Hayatou’s 20 to stun the entire continent.
Hayatou had been in office since 1988 and over the years, had ruthlessly defeated all those who dared challenge his reign.
Most people expected a similar outcome during yesterday’s poll since it was only the Philip Chiyangwa-led Cosafa region and a handful of other countries that had publicly endorsed Ahmad.
When the results were announced, delegates jumped into the air as they celebrated the demise of one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.
“I can’t talk at this time. Only one thing — I thank God, I thank my team,” the Malagasy told reporters after the results were announced.
“We worked hard but we won. That was the first step. The second step is to develop African football. Some days I thought I would win — today I didn’t (think I would win).
“When you try to do something, you mean that you can do it. If I can’t do it, I never stand. This is sweet victory. When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.”
In his 29-year reign, Hayatou had ruled with an iron fist and when Ahmad announced his bid for the Caf presidency, the Cameroonian responded by stripping Madagascar the rights to host the Under-17 Afcon tournament.
A similar sanction was handed out to Zimbabwe in 1998 when former Zifa president Leo Mugabe voted for Sepp Blatter instead of Hayatou during the 1998 Fifa elections.
The vindictive Hayatou responded by denying Zimbabwe the right to host the 2000 Afcon finals, insisting that Zifa did not have a government guarantee among other requirements.
Following his victory yesterday, Ahmad, 57, will replace Hayatou on Fifa’s governing council, so the election signals the departure of one more long-term fixture from world football’s governing body’s executive committee during the 17-year presidency of Blatter.
In his final address to the Caf General Assembly, Hayatou had tried to drum up support by outlining how he had been able to increase the organisation’s revenue.
“As from January 1, 2017 Caf launched a new commercial cycle of its competitions. The previous round, the first of its kind for African football, between 2008 and 2016, with a guaranteed minimum of $150 million, allowed for the distribution of significant amounts of money to clubs and member associations,” he said.
“It also made it possible for Caf to project into its future. And especially, to be sure of a serene continuation of its competitions and activities even in very unfavourable situations.
“Henceforth, with a guaranteed minimum of $1 billion over 12 years, we have more than average to keep up with the transformation of our football.
“This money is not to be distributed to individuals. But to be well invested into the development of the youth of the continent. By creating an environment whereby the youth would not have to travel abroad in order to achieve his dream.
“This is one major reason that motivated Caf to create the African Nations Championship, a unique competition in the world, exclusively for players playing in the championships of their countries. The last edition in Rwanda showed to the world the technical, tactical and physical level of home-grown African players.”