Former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu believes the time to ‘force’ the long-serving president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou from office is now.
Hayatou’s decision to stand for an eighth successive term of office is under serious threat, particularly from a “new generation” of African football leaders, who are backing the candidacy of Madagascar’s FA boss, Ahmad Ahmad.
Among those championing the “new generation” crusade against Hayatou is said to be the President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, who said on Tuesday that the CAF election on March 16 would be “a defining moment for African football.”
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Adelabu, who played for the then IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, said Hayatou’s continuous stay as CAF President was doing great harm than good to Africa’s football.
Hayatou, who hails from northern Cameroun, has been at the helm of African football for the past 28 years and never at any time since then has an African football association leader been bold enough to come out to oppose his re-election.
Since his ascendancy to power in 1988, many believe that Hayatou has ruled African football with an iron fist, silencing the continent’s soccer administrators as no one dare oppose his decisions even when he is wrong.
But this time, a courageous Ahmad from Madagascar, and the ‘new generation’ crusaders have come forward to challenge Hayatou.
This move, according to Adelabu, needs the support of all true lovers of African football. “African football has suffered too long in the hand of Issa Hayatou and it is time for him to go. Those who have the voting powers should stand their ground and we will support the move to edge Hayatou out.
“African football now needs a younger leader who is creative and innovative. Hayatou’s continuous stay in power is taking us backward and everyone must unite to force him out since he is not ready to follow the path of honour by taking a bow. The wider football world is changing and logic dictates that Africa cannot remain immune from this trend. After 28 years in office, Hayatou no longer has anything new to offer and it is time for him to go,” Adelabu said yesterday.
Even before the emergence of the ‘new generation’ that is championing the move to stop Hayatou in the March 16 election, FA chairmen in southern, East and Central Africa had labeled the Camerounian a ‘bad influence’ for African football.
The President of Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), Phillip Chiyangwa, said recently that Hayatou’s tenure had not been fruitful for people in the southern, East and Central Africa.
“Hayatou has made plenty of promises yet his track record has shown that he clearly favours West Africa, where he comes from,” Chiyangwa said.
“Statistics reveal that since Hayatou’s election, southern Africa has hosted the Africa Cup of Nations on only three occasions — in South Africa in 1996 and 2013 and in Angola in 2010.
“Yet during the same period, West Africa has hosted the football competition on eight occasions in 1992, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2017, and is set to host three more consecutive tournaments.
“West Africa has been awarded the rights to host the contest in Hayatou’s home country of Cameroun in 2019, and later in the Ivory Coast in 2021 and in Guinea in 2023.
Yet the Cecafa region, for which Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda are also members, are still to host the tournament under Hayatou’s reign, while north Africa has hosted the competition on four occasions,” he stated.
Like the views expressed by Adelabu, the Zimbabwean FA boss (Chiyangwa) is of the opinion that African football needs a youthful leader, who has the energy and vision to take the continent to a higher lever.
It would be recalled that Pinnick told the BBC on Tuesday that the March 16 election would be “a defining moment for African football,” adding that CAF needs a “new generation” of leadership following the change at the world governing body, FIFA.