ADDIS ABABA – Madagascar Football Association chief Ahmad Ahmad has been elected Confederation of African Football president, ending Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign.
Ahmad won 34 of the 54 votes in the election, which was held in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Thursday. The result means a change in leadership for the first time since Cameroonian Hayatou took charge in 1988.
Ahmad, who appeared very emotional, becomes only the seventh CAF president in the body’s 60-year history.
The result was greeted by cheers at the CAF congress as Ahmad was carried on the shoulders of jubilant supporters to the podium after the result was announced.
In contrast, Hayatou was led from the auditorium by aides but he told reporters as he departed: “It is not that bad.”
The 57-year-old Ahmad said: “When you try to do something, you mean that you can do it. If I can’t do it, I never stand. “This is sweet victory. When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.’’
Ahmad, who became Madagascar FA chief in 2003, takes over as CAF president on an initial four-year term, and has promised to modernise the body and make it more transparent.
His first job, he said earlier on Thursday, would be to introduce a new code of ethics and he has also pledged to extend ethics checks on African football officials.
The departure of Hayatou is a huge change for African football and the 70-year-old will also lose his FIFA position and his place on the ruling council of world football’s governing body.
He had been challenged for the CAF presidency only twice before and both times won with landslide victories. This time he won only 20 votes, ending his hopes of winning an eighth term in office that would have seen his presidency extend for more than three decades in total.
“His Excellency Issa Hayatou has done a lot for African football (but) it is time for him to step back,” said George Afriyie, vice president of the Ghana Football Association.
Liberia Football Association President Musa Bility added: “Africa has made an emphatic decision that we are ready for change.”
Efforts to get a comment from the Rwanda football governing body, Ferwafa, were futile as federation officials in Kigali insisted that only Vincent Nzamwita, the federation’s president, was the one in position to comment.
However, repeated calls to Nzamwita, who was still in Addis Ababa where the election was held, went unanswered. Neither did he respond to this newspaper’s texts.
Rwanda, along with the other members of the Council of Eastern and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) – a bloc of 12 countries – had agreed to vote for Hayatou, according to an earlier statement released by the grouping.
However, their Southern African counterparts, COSAFA (to which Madagascar subscribes), had declared they would throw their weight behind Ahmad.
The official position of the other blocs had largely remained unclear but heads of several national federations in West Africa had become vocal in support of Ahmad, underlining the importance of a new leadership after nearly three decades of Hayatou’s leadership.
Additional reporting by Geoffrey Asiimwe in Kigali.