HARARE – Hundreds of local football fans welcomed Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa at Harare International Airport yesterday, on his return from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) General Assembly in Ethiopia.
Chiyangwa masterminded the downfall of long-serving former Caf president Issa Hayatou, who was ousted by Madagascar Football Association head Ahmad Ahmad during Thursday’s election.
Chiyangwa was Ahmad’s campaign manager with his candidate garnering 34 votes while Hayatou, who had been in office since 1988, got 24 votes.
The Zifa boss, who is also the Cosafa president, had been in the trenches from the very first day Ahmad announced his intention to run for Caf presidency.
The voluble Harare businessman had become Hayatou’s number 1 enemy in the last two months as the Cameroonian battled to secure an unprecedented eighth term in office.
At one point, the Cameroonian accused Chiyangwa of trying to “destabilise” Caf after the Zimbabwean invited Fifa president Gianni Infantino and other African football leaders to his birthday party in Harare last month.
Two days before the elections, Hayatou had manipulated the Caf Executive Committee to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Chiyangwa.
However, his tactics of trying to intimidate Chiyangwa and the other African countries not to support Ahmad failed dismally.
Caf’s disciplinary proceedings against Chiyangwa are likely to fall away since Hayatou is no longer in charge to pursue the case.
“That threat has obviously fallen away because the case was initiated by Hayatou, who was the complainant, but he is no longer there. He wanted to take me out but I took him out first,” Chiyangwa said.
“What it simply means is that Zimbabwe has installed the new king of football in Africa. Zimbabwe is the king of Cosafa and through its craftsmanship has managed to put together other actors across Africa who have formed a new Caf.
“Otherwise that previous Caf you knew was popularly known for wanting to take disciplinary action against me. In other words, Zimbabwe has put a new face to African football. The victory that we are celebrating today is my art and this artistry is now what determines the future.
“Everyone was tired and I took the risk and if I had not achieved this victory obviously you are aware what could have come my way — the emperor would have come after me.
“So because I have achieved this victory, I am now a free man and I have liberated many people who saw this person as biased, inept and very difficult to work with so I have totally silenced this guy. I have silenced not only one man but the entire executive.”
Chiyangwa was surprised at Hayatou’s pettiness as he was hounded for inviting Infantino and other football personalities to his birthday party.
“How can people say we are taking you for a hearing simply because of a birthday party and for not inviting them?” he asked.
“I make and destroy people when it comes to football. Hayatou did not know the energy that I have and the knowledge, he underestimated me.
“I told you before when you start fighting with me you have to destroy me completely — don’t attempt to have a second round with me. And you see instead of throwing him under the bus I threw him under the train so that it cuts the head and the legs.”
The Harare-based property developer, who is also a Zanu PF Central Committee member, insists that Zimbabwe has a lot to gain from Ahmad’s victory.
“This is only the beginning now for Zimbabwean football. We now have to push for better deals that can see the country benefit. There was nothing coming here it was all about West Africa and North Africa but this is total emancipation,” he said.