MADAGASCAR’S Ahmad already has the commitment of enough votes to suggest he will become the most successful challenger to Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou‚ but his chances of success are still seen as slim.
Today’s Caf presidential elections in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will be just the third time in 29 years that Hayatou faces a rival for the top job in African football as he seeks an eighth term at the head of the continent’s game.
His two previous challengers went down in flames with just a handful of votes and have faded into subsequent obscurity‚ and the same fate likely awaits the Madagascan government minister‚ who uses just one name, but not without a fight.
Ahmad’s supporters have whipped up a lively campaign and with the tacit support of new Fifa president Gianni Infantino have given the impression that a shock result could be on the cards.
He has the support of the 14-members of Cosafa, although individual members are not obliged to follow the dictate of Cosafa‚ and also public expressions of support from Nigeria and Liberia.
Some 16 out of a total of 53 Caf member countries – Eritrea is disqualified from voting because they did not enter any recent Caf competitions – is hardly a significant number although much more than any of Hayatou’s other two past challengers could muster combined.
A new generation of football association presidents‚ many still schoolboys when Hayatou became president in 1988‚ have been looking for a freshening up of Caf structures, but the organisation’s rules make it difficult to do so.
A controversial rule that allows only members of the Caf executive committee to be eligible for the presidency was brought to block the possible path to power of Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast‚ who briefly enjoyed the patronage of Sepp Blatter some 10 years ago‚ during the then Fifa president’s rivalry with Hayatou‚ before the two Goliaths made up and consigned Anouma to the sidelines.
The restriction on candidates means Ahmad’s decision in sticking his head above the parapet has been brave.
But there are much more charismatic and competent committee members on the 15-man Caf executive who might have provided more of a challenge‚ but who have not taken the chance of going up against the 70-year-old from Cameroon.
Hayatou‚ who is now also the most senior member of the Fifa Council‚ is likely to carry the day and take his mandate into a fourth decade‚ allowing him to leave the presidency having seen a Nations Cup hosted in his own country.
Cameroon are set to host the 2019 finals. – TMG Sport