Rift widening in African football post Hayatou

Issa-Hayatou.jpeg

Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou looks on during a press conference dedicated to the giving of a $200,000 check by CAF to the African Union for their campaign against famine and hunger in Africa, in Libreville, on February 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

THE split in African football post-Issa Hayatou appears wider now following South Africa’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations bid loss to Egypt last week.

By Enock Muchinjo

Cracks have emerged within the grouping that successfully campaigned for the ouster of long-serving Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Hayatou in 2017. South African football head Danny Jordaan was part of the alliance that mounted a spirited campaign against the Cameroonian Hayatou, in favour of eventual winner Ahmad of Madagascar.

It all seems a distant past now.

Last week, the Caf executive committee preferred Egypt to Jordaan’s South Africa as replacements for original hosts Cameroon, who were dropped due to delays in preparations and concerns over security. Before that, Jordaan also lost an election for a seat on the Fifa Council. The experienced and much-fancied South African was defeated by little-known Malawian Walter Nyamilandu, said to be the favoured candidate of Ahmad and his Caf executive committee.

Tellingly, Nyamilandu had ignored an order by the regional Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) to withdraw his candidature to pave way for Jordaan. The two Cosafa member federations’ heads ended up going into the election against each other. And indeed, Nyamilandu’s 35-18 run-off win over Jordaan at a special congress in Egypt last September — and then South Africa’s Afcon bid loss to a country that hosted the Fifa seat elections — would seem to strongly suggest a shift away from some of the most influencial members of the pro-Ahmad group, thus forming a new alliance.

Interestingly, a close ally of Jordaan and self-declared campaign manager for Ahmad in 2017, Zimbabwe’s Phillip Chiyangwa, in December lost the presidency of the country’s football federation Zifa to rank outsider Felton Kamambo. Chiyangwa, however, remains president of Cosafa until the expiry of his term in 2021.

Meanwhile, Nyamilandu, now one of the most powerful Africans in world football, has admitted that the continent is deeply divided, but insists that Caf boss Ahmad has massive support in Africa.

Nyamilandu also refuted claims of a widening rift between Ahmad and Chiyangwa, a key figure in his election victory in 2017. “That’s mere speculation,” Nyamilandu told IndependentSport this week.

“President Ahmad remains strong and he has the majority support of Africa. It’s a pity that we have lost Phillip Chiyangwa who was instrumental to the revolution but we will cherish and make the most of his leadership as Cosafa president. We welcome Felton Kamambo as the new Zifa president and pledge our continued support.”

Nyamilandu, however, admitted to divisions in African football, citing the difference on the continent on voting for Morocco for the 2026 World Cup bid.

His country, Malawi, alongside such countries as Zimbabwe and South Africa, did not vote for the North African country, preferring the joint-bid of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“There will always be divisions,” Nyamilandu said. “This was manifested during my Fifa Council elections and the Morocco World Cup bid, but the majority will always prevail and conquer opposition.”

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