CAF president Issa Hayatou has dangled the Nations Cup hosting rights carrot on Zambia in his latest attempt to break the solidarity of COSAFA in his battle to extend his reign as the leader of the game on the continent.
Under Hayatou’s 29-year-old rule, only South Africa have hosted the Nations Cup finals while Zambia and Zimbabwe had their rights stripped at the last minute by the CAF leadership.
The Cameroonian strongman has always used the Nations Cup hosting rights as a major weapon in keeping himself at the helm of African football with most of the tournaments held either in West or North Africa, where he has his power base.
Hayatou is facing the biggest challenge to retain his seat as CAF president from Madagascar Football Federation boss Ahmad Ahmad who has received the backing of COSAFA who have 14 votes.
If COSAFA vote en-bloc, which is probably unlikely, then Ahmad will require just another 13 more votes from the other regions to become the CAF president at elections set for Ethiopia tomorrow.
There is also a strong feeling that the Cameroonian strongman could be kicked out of his job by FIFA even if he was to win tomorrow’s poll.
Sepp Blatter, the former FIFA president, won the poll to retain his job, but was forced out a few weeks later.
The FIFA Investigatory Chamber have confirmed they are looking at material submitted by those who feel Hayatou does not fit the criteria to stand as CAF president.
FIFA said they could not stop Hayatou from competing tomorrow because the issues were raised late and there won’t be time to give the Cameroonian a chance to defend himself.
“We refer to your correspondence dated 7 and 8 March, 2017 as well as the annexes regarding concerns over the eligibility of Messrs Issa Hayatou and Hicham Al Amrami for their membership and presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Board, which we have received our full attention,” Miguel Polares Maduro, the chairman of the FIFA Review Committee said in a letter leaked to the media.
“In this regard, we kindly inform you that due to the extreme proximity of the elections taking place at the CAF Congress and the complex nature of the allegations raised in your correspondences, it is not possible for the Review Committee to re-open the eligibility process without infringing on Mr Issa Hayatou’s right to be heard and to a fair procedure.
“Therefore, the Review Committee will forward your correspondences, including its annexes, to the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee.”
Ahead of the poll, the CAF executive met in Addis Ababa yesterday where Hayatou pushed his leadership to refer comments alleged to have been made by ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa, who is also the head of COSAFA, suggesting that the continent’s football leaders were cowards to the organisation’s disciplinary chamber.
Hayatou wants the disciplinary committee to see whether the comments, which were published in a local newspaper, were not a violation of the statutes governing the game on the continent and, if so, whether Chiyangwa should not be brought before a disciplinary hearing for allegedly making those comments.
“The CAF president said those comments were an insult to the leaders of the game in Africa and cited a number of articles, which govern the game on the continent, which he said the comments violated,” sources told The Herald.
“He then pushed his executive to refer those comments to their disciplinary committee which will then make a determination on whether or not there was a case that can be brought against Chiyangwa for branding them cowards.
“Of course, there were some voices in the executive committee who questioned whether it would make sense to bank everything on a newspaper article given it was impossible to pin Chiyangwa to those comments and one can’t prove that, indeed, he labelled the CAF leaders as cowards.
“But Hayatou got his way and the comments have been referred to the disciplinary committee and we await further developments which will, obviously, be determined by what happens on Thursday because, if Ahmad wins the vote for the CAF presidency, everything changes and, also, there is the issue of FIFA who could see this as another blow to the democracy they are preaching in the new dispensation and might tell CAF that their actions are null and void.”
Botswana Football Association president, Maclean Letshwiti, reiterated his country’s support for Ahmad.
“I am the driving force, the strategist. I keep the group together. We support Ahmad and COSAFA has stated its position,” Letshwiti said.
But Hayatou is fighting and met with Zambian President Edgar Lungu and promised that Zambia may get a chance to host the Nations Cup within the next eight years if any of the already guaranteed hosts withdraw.
“Zambia met all our requirements; let them start procedure once the bid is open, but if any country fails, we won’t even request for bid, we shall directly give Zambia to host,” Hayatou said.