Has CAF become a secret society?

June 12, 2011 Articles Leave a comment

Caf president Issa Hayatou (left) with 2010 World Cup LOC chairman Irvin Khoza

With the battle for the FIFA presidency over, at least for the predictable future, it is time to take a look at bigger problems in our continent.

For anyone close to the corridors of clout in African football, there is no question that there’s a Machiavellian struggle for power and influence.

With Issa Hayatou’s 25-year imperial rule coming to an inevitable end in 2013, the battle for who will succeed the 65-year-old Cameroonian, as president of the Confederation of African Football, is in full swing.

But the man from Garoua has no intention of turning into a lame duck president for the 20 months he has left in power.

Hayatou is fighting to retain dominant influence and, most importantly, decide who assumes the reins of presidential power once he strolls into the sunset of retirement.

In what was a shocker for the grandmaster of African football politics, Hayatou was unable to checkmate his supposedly weaker opponents on the election chessboard last February.

His favoured picks for the CAF exco elections in Sudan – including Moucharafou Anjorin, the controversial president of the Benin Federation – were soundly beaten.

The successful candidates had the petrodollar backing of a wealthy Arab millionaire from the Gulf or built, through their own savvy, a groundswell of continental support that Hayatou’s presidential power succumbed to.

But, like most wily politicians do when taken by surprise, they lick their wounds, dust themselves over and gird their loins for a ‘take-no-prisoners’ fight back.

Restlessness from West Africa, CAF’s largest sub-region with 16 members, many of whom have expressed their willingness to participate in an open revolt against the current CAF leadership, has ended up in the dismemberment of the WAFU, the region’s football union.

It was “dissolved” by CAF on 16th May, under the pretext that the grouping was formed in violation of CAF zoning regulations.

That WAFU has been in existence since 1975 and existed with CAF’s full backing and support, for 36 years, is a fact conveniently forgotten, in their oligarchy’s desperate quest to suppress political discontent.

Armtwisting

As one of the leading officials in the West African region said, “Dissolving WAFU under the pretext that West Africa is supposed to have two different groupings, as they do in CAF, is a political tactic to stop the region from forging a common political position.”

“When they stopped us from having elections in Gambia, CAF claimed they were going to reorganise all the regional bodies in the continent. But as can be seen, our region is being victimised, whilst the others have been left intact.” The storm following that politically motivated decision in Cairo was the one of the controversial subjects raised at the CAF general assembly meeting in Zurich, in the morning of 31st May, ahead of the beginning of the FIFA congress.

Curious to know the explanation the CAF secretariat was going to give for their behaviour, I went to the Radisson Blu Hotel at Zurich airport to observe the meeting.

But Mamadou Gaye, known for his forthright views on SuperSport’s “Soccer Africa” show and yours truly had barely settled into our seats, at the back of the meeting room, when a CAF official, whom I have known for several years and consider a friend, quietly came round.

“Hello Osasu, how are you?”

“Fine”, I said, wondering what had brought him round while the meeting was in full swing.

“I have been asked to tell you that you cannot observe this meeting and you have to leave,” he said politely, his face showing a tinge of embarrassment at the distasteful task he had been given.

“May I ask why?” I queried.

“It is the instruction that I have been given. I am really sorry but there is nothing I can do,” he said.

I was sorely tempted to create a ruckus and remind the high table of their duty to be transparent in the conduct of their duties to the African people.

But, remembering the old saying that “discretion is the better part of valour”, I gritted my teeth and left.

When I subsequently confronted Hicham Amrani, CAF’s general secretary, on the reasons for the media’s exclusion from the event, he claimed “it was a closed meeting”, in order to have discussions away from the glare of public scrutiny.

Mohamed Raouraoua, the CAF/FIFA exco member from Algeria, asked the 53 national federations to approve a long-term television contract negotiated by CAF – in which a paltry amount for the entire continent was on offer.

Not being given the contract and figures to examine and debate beforehand, several countries rose in opposition against CAF’s plan. Augustin Senghor, the brave president of the Senegalese federation, led the charge.

But many others, Nigeria included, frightened of defying the CAF leadership, by taking a public stand in protection of their national interests, kept quiet, which led CAF to declare that the decision to centralise the sale of TV rights for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers “was unanimous.”

Even Hayatou made jest of their lack of courage when grumbling nations refused to put their heads above the parapet and state their frank views on the matter.

And regarding WAFU? Hayatou claimed, disingenuously, that contrary to CAF’s pronouncement of May 16th, the group had not been dissolved but needed to be organised into two different groups, which can be “subsequently forged together”.

Make of that equivocal statement what you will, as it does not clear the air of uncertainty over the region and the continent at large.

Will African football ever be free from those that are determined to keep it in chains? Aluta continua… Victoria ascerta? We shall see.

This article originally appeared in my “Point Blank” column, published in Nigeria’s NEXT on Sunday newspaper.

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