Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIFA and COSAFA president Philip Chiyangwa will lead his region’s leaders for their inaugural meeting with new CAF president Ahmad Ahmad in South Africa with expectations high that the Southern African bloc could finally play a more influential role in the development of the continental game.
Chiyangwa and the COSAFA member associations will meet with the new CAF boss in Sandton tomorrow and Friday in what promises to be a landmark indaba that could shape the manner in which the region will contribute to the game in the new era for African football.
There is a strong belief that the COSAFA region could not play a key role in the continental football affairs as it was largely marginalised under former CAF president Issa Hayatou with the bloc literally coming in for recognition only during election times.
But the tide has been changing in the African football matrix and the 14-member COSAFA region under their revolutionary leader Chiyangwa is now poised to also make a meaningful contribution to that changing landscape.
ZIFA president Chiyangwa was one of the key actors that were instrumental in the power changes that took place at the CAF headquarters and ended Hayatou’s 29-year reign at the helm of the continental body on March 16 and ushered in the Ahmad era.
Interestingly, Ahmad also hails from the COSAFA region having been the leader of the Madagascar Football Federation as well as a CAF executive committee member.
The CAF boss has wasted no time getting down to business since assuming official duties on March 26.
Ahmad first chaired a meeting with staff at the CAF secretariat on March 26 during which he also officially accepted the resignation of Hayatou loyalist Hicham El-Amrani from the post of secretary-general and laid out his vision for the continental body.
“This house belongs to you. CAF is yours. Let’s protect our institution. We politicians are just passing by but you have been called to stay. I have confidence in you and I am convinced that with you we will be able to succeed and develop African football more,” Ahmad reportedly told the staff.
Following Moroccan El-Amrani’s departure, deputy secretary-general Essam Ahmed, an Egyptian, has been tasked to take over in an acting capacity until further notice.
The CAF president also presented to the staff, two members of his cabinet; Hedi Hamel, communications advisor and Ludovic Christian Lomotsi, legal advisor.
This week the CAF boss will also get a maiden opportunity to hear from the first region to publicly throw its weight behind his election, on expectations which the COSAFA leaders have of his presidency when he meets the associations and their president Chiyangwa.
Chiyangwa, who was Ahmad’s campaign manager, during the elections that toppled Hayatou and later became an advisor to the CAF boss, has also evolved into a power broker in the African game since bursting onto the international stage following his election to the helm of COSAFA in December last year.
Sources close to the goings on in African football have also indicated that, “it has become almost routine that people who are canvassing for positions in CAF or even to represent the continent at FIFA have to also consult and win the support of such people like Chiyangwa’’.
The ZIFA boss, in confirming the meeting with Ahmad in Sandton, also revealed that he would use the opportunity to table the five-year plan that he has set out for COSAFA and also offer the CAF president his opinion on issues related to the game.
“I will offer him my opinion and advice and also ensure that COSAFA is a powerhouse in African football . . . I will also table my five-year plan for COSAFA,’’ Chiyangwa said.
Chiyangwa said he had invited the COSAFA association presidents to the meeting with Ahmad as part of his policy to consult widely within the region.
“I will seek guidance from my colleagues in COSAFA because I am not tyrannical or autocratic. I will do a lot of consultation and I believe that is the best way we can succeed as a group,’’ Chiyangwa said.
Chiyangwa also dispelled the notion by some of his critics that he was paying more attention to the international game at the expense of ZIFA business.
“I am not ignoring local football as some people would want to believe. I know what I am doing and I am working on it (ZIFA business).
“I have got an executive committee that I work with and that I consult and I can assure the nation that we will bring results for Zimbabwe football,’’ Chiyangwa said.
The Harare property mogul also revealed that he was in constant touch with the Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhosini Hlongwane from whom he also regularly receives advice.
“At all material times I confide in my minister and he knows what we are doing and he gives me guidance on what Government expects from us and on how best we can also benefit the Government,’’ Chiyangwa said.
Just last Friday, Chiyangwa rolled out a vision and a smooth partnership with the Spanish La Liga to explore possibilities for football exchange programmes between Spain and Zimbabwe that will foster training of trainers, grassroots development, and support for the local game through provision of equipment.
Minister Hlongwane has also outlined a vision to have community sports clubs and academies that will identify and nurture talent.
La Liga last week dispatched to Harare their office director for Africa, Antonio Barradas, who held talks with Chiyangwa and his executive after which the parties outlined the working modalities of their partnership.