Politics takes centre stage as football administrators in Africa elect new CAF president.
Perhaps no election in the history of the African Football Confederation (CAF) had generated so much interest and enthusiasm as the 43rd CAF Elective General Assembly,which saw South African businessman Patrice Motsepe elected to the top spot at the Rabat meeting on March 12.
Established 64 years ago, CAF strives to develop the game across the continent and ensure fair representation for Africa at global tournaments. For many, African football was best managed between 1972 and 1987, when a former footballer from Ethiopia, YidnekatchewTessema, was CAF president.
Tessema’s death in 1987 paved the way for the emergence of a new leadership for CAF in 1988, when Issa Hayatou, a teacher and sports minister from Cameroon, was first elected as CAF president. He went on to lead the continental body for 29 years.
While those who keep a tab on African football agree that CAF, under Hayatou’s leadership, has improved the financial fortunes of the game in the continent and helped get more African teams in the World Cup.
Football’s development during that period led to the best of the continent’s talents deserting the African game for the more lucrative contracts in Europe.
Hayatou’s reign as CAF president ended when the then-FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, and a string of other powerbrokers in the executive committee of the world body, were indicted for alleged corruption by the US Department of Justice or banned by FIFA’s Ethics Committee for malpractice.
Hayatou himself was not charged or implicated in those corruption scandals, but his long record was tarnished by an alleged payment to him of approximately $18,000 from the marketing company ISL in 1995.
He admitted receiving the money, but claimed it was not a corrupt payment and that he used it to pay for a celebration of CAF’s 40-year anniversary in 1997.
The Cameroonian would later lose the top spot to the president of the Madagascar Football Association, Ahmad Ahmad, at the CAF congress in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after gaining just 20 votes to Ahmad’s 34 in the 2017 election.
Ahmad’s rise was reportedly made possible by the young hawks in the CAF’s Executive Committee, who were dissatisfied with the alleged opacity that had characterised Hayatou’s management of the continental body.
Ahmad barely had chance to settle into the role before some of his clique in the Executive Committee started grumbling about his leadership style. One-time supporter of Ahmed’s in the CAF Executive CommitteeAmajuPinnicksaid: ‘The issue of trust started coming in and that’s what led to the initial breakdown [with Ahmad].’
The president of the Nigeria Football Federation said he had originally planned ‘to support the CAF president to have a second term in office, even a third,’ before growing disillusioned with the Madagascan’s management style.
Ahmad’s prospects of retaining his CAF presidency were dealt a huge blow when he was arrested by police in Paris, France, and questioned over allegations of forcing CAF to buy sportswear through a French company, rather than directly from manufacturers, and at inflated prices. Ahmad, alleged to stand to be rewarded up to $830,000 from the arrangement, has denied the allegations, adding:‘All decisions were taken in a collective and transparent manner.’
The 61-year-old was banned for five years and handed a $200,000 fine by FIFA in November for contravening the governing body’s code of ethics.
However, Ahmad denied the allegations and appealed the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which, in a preliminary ruling, reinstated him as CAF president.
Ahmed’s replacement made his fortune from mining.
The 58-year-old is the president of Mamelodi Sundowns, the Pretoria township club that won the African Champions League in 2016.
Patriotic zeal fuels Usman’s title ambition
Still basking in the successful defence of his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title,Usman has said he will not be pandering to popular opinion to move up to the next division.
The Nigerian, who has a stranglehold on the Welterweight division, endured a challenging first and second round when he met Gilbert Burns in Las Vegas in February, before violently putting away the Brazilian in the third round of the UFC 258 main event.
Usman showed that he’s one of the best fighters on the planet by making adjustments and working behind the jab before putting an end to his opponent.
The victory extended Usman’s UFC winning streak to 12 and marked his third defence of the welterweight crown.
Calls have been growing for Usman to move above his 78kg division to the Middleweight class where his fellow Nigerian, Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya, reigns as champion.
The UFC Middleweight division covers competitors within the 78kg-83kg range.
Usman, however, maintained that he would consider moving up a weight class if ‘Izzy’ (Israel Adesanya) gave up on the middleweight division. Adesanya is expected to move up a weight class and challenge Jan Błachowicz for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on March 6, 2021, at UFC 259.
He told ESPN,‘If Izzy is willing to move up, well, he is moving up. But if he’s willing to give up that 85 pounds and says, “I have nothing to do in that division anymore,” then absolutely, I would entertain that thought.’
He added that he would rather have two African UFC champions, as opposed to one African holding two belts at the same time.
In the aftermath of his triumph over teammate Gilbert Turns, Usman called out American Jorge Masvidal for a rematch.
Usman beat Masvidal at the UFC 251 in July 2020, and it has been suggested that the two top welterweight fighters could engage in a rematch by the end of 2021.
Africa’s footballing proteges
Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o may have laid the foundation for two new footballing dynasties, after their sons both made landmark football appearances last month.
Former Chelsea youth team player Isaac Drogba, 20, made his professional debut for the Italian fourth division side FolgoreCaratese, coming on as a 79th-minute substitute as the team sealed a 4-1 win over Saluzzo.
The son of former Ivory Coast captain and Chelsea legend, Paris-born Drogba had previously spent time plying his trade for the reserves at French side, Guingamp, where his dad had spent one year before sealing a big move to Marseilles.
Interestingly, Isaac Drogba’s maiden appearance coincided with that of Samuel Eto’o’s son, Etienne, who played for Cameroon’s junior side for the first time in the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.
Etienne put up a Man of the Match performance, scoring twice and assisting another, as his side also bagged a 4-1 win against Mozambique in the final group stage fixture.
His first goal was a glorious freekick that opened the scoring in the seventh minute.
He added a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
Speaking to CAF media, the young Eto’o said:‘There is always pressure in life, whether or not you are the son of a famous person. But for me, I just try to enjoy my career and demonstrate to people that I can do it.’
He said his dad had been a huge inspiration to him, but added that he one day hoped to surpass his achievements.
‘I want to try and be better than him, and I am always looking forward to stepping on the pitch and giving my best.’
Cameroon’s all-time top scorer and one-time captain, Eto’o senior was regarded by pundits as one of the best strikers in the world in his prime.
The 39-year-old won back-to-back trebles with Inter Milan and Barcelona, and clinched the African Player of the Year a record four times – in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010.
Didier Drogba, 42, was named African Footballer of the Year twice, winning the accolade in 2006 and 2009.
He is widely regarded as one of Chelsea’s greatest ever players.