Unless something drastic happens, an event or incident out of the blues, South African businessman Patrice Motsepe should, about this time, next week be mounting the saddle as the next President of the Confederation of African Football(CAF).
The coast appears clear for Motsepe with every report, both official and unofficial, on traditional and digital media platforms insisting that an agreement facilitated by the the President of the world soccer governing body, FIFA, Gianni Infantino has paved the way for his emergence.
While all the reports on Motsepe are clear and unanimous, those on who will be his Vice Presidents(VPs) are hazy.
There are suggestions in most quarters that two of the four CAF Presidential candidates who may have agreed to the Motsepe deal – Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania will become the first and second VPs of CAF while Djibouti’s Souleiman Hassan Waberi will be the third VP.
Another report that has surfaced tips Morocco’s Fouzi Lekjaa as one of the VPs, probably the first. This report is hinging its permutation on the imbalance that will exist in the CAF Executive Committee if two of the three VPs are from the same geographical region – West Africa Zone A, which is where both Senghor and Yahya are from.
Although the statutes of CAF are silent about the spread of these positions, it is believed it would only be a matter of time before this unconventional appointments begin to stick out like a sore thumb. A marriage of inconvenience already in the offing – even before the start of a new tenure of a ‘fragile’ confederation?
The widespread narrative is that FIFA President Gianni Infantino is forcing his will on CAF with all these arrangements, that he wants to control one of world football’s largest Confederations so he can always get his plans through at the General Assembly when the need arises…how true or false that is will be a matter of time.
Like Infantino, I also feel very positive about a Patrice Motsepe CAF presidency. His background as one of the continent’s wealthiest businessmen and involvement with club administration, and the success of that club Mamelodi Sundowns, fit the bill of the kind of leadership needed to get African football to the next level.
I however disagree he will be immune against the ills that bedevilled the outgoing administration just because of his net worth.
As a politically exposed person, the same temptations would be there even at a higher level. The stakes are higher, the business interests more daunting and cases that could lead to conflicts of interests more rampant so he will need to be careful, perhaps more than initially planned.
This position is a different ball game altogether; a wrong idea or move could have a very damaging effect on the reputation of the one in charge especially if he is surrounded by those who tell him only what he wants to hear.
Africa cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In 2017, that is four years ago, the general impression was that Issa Hayatou had overstayed his welcome and so a change was necessary. Pa Hayatou was in charge at CAF for close to three decades. Two years earlier, in 2015, the general assembly of CAF oversaw a change of its statutes, altering the age limit proviso that would have ruled the Cameroonian out of the race in 2017. In spite of obvious physical challenges, he wanted another term. Then again, there was a clause that restricted those eligible to run for the office of CAF president to only Executive Committee members.
Those were his greatest undoing…he should have left when the ovation was loudest.
In comes Ahmad Ahmad like a breath of fresh air. With Infantino’s goodwill, a group of daring Football Association(FA) presidents got to work and pulled the rug from under Hayatou’s feet.
As is usual with politics, forcing a change is the easier task, sustaining and being the change is the tougher assignment. The sharing of the spoils of a conquest is oftentimes the beginning of fresh, devastating internal battles and scrambles.
Ahmad Ahmad’s four years have run out so fast. It is startling it has already run its course. There were some noteworthy moments but many will only remember the forgettable, unpleasant and controversial incidents like the Broadcast/TV deals gone awry, the France arrest, the FIFA take over, the halted 2019 CAF Champions League final, the ‘alleged’ slapping of a top referee by an Executive Committee member and the backstabbing among the Executive Committee members.
All these have left CAF worse off, making the forthcoming elections assume a far more decisive significance.
Whether he succeeds with his plans or not, I refuse to believe or place the blames of African football on any external factor forcing his will on us. We need to look in the mirror and hold our football administrators accountable.
What kind of leader does Africa football need at this time?
- A Reconciler and Unifier.
African football is just like Africa’s politics.
We are a people divided along linguistic and geographic lines because of colonialism. We have to be careful with our regional football bodies…like COSAFA, CECAFA, WAFU, UNAF, UNIFFAC. I feel the way these regional bodies declare block votes and 100% support for candidates from their zones, at the expense of the other candidates outside their zones, especially in the build up to CAF/FIFA elections should be discouraged. We should seek to produce pan African leaders and not regional champions.
Our discrimination along linguistic lines is worse. There appears to be some natural inbuilt reservoir of distrust between Franco and Anglo phone speaking people, same applies to the Arabic and Portuguese speaking people of Africa.
Clearly, the lines of division that were used to keep us apart in the colonial era still runs so deeply among us today. While it may be politically challenging to do away with these diversities, we should try to manage them responsibly in our football.
- A Builder.
One of the greatest needs of African football is professionalism in its governance and administration. It is high time our FAs across the continent started to operate in line with global best practices.
Over dependence on Government for funding and weak governance structures leave openings for government interference, corruption and other unethical practices.
So we have to make our football bodies financially strong. There can be no real independence without financial independence and this is where most of our football authorities are failing.
Conflicts of interest, lack of fairness and transparency as well as the failure to adhere to football statutes are some other problem areas that the new CAF leadership will need to address.
CAF itself needs to be stronger financially. There should be a better, more profitable broadcast/TV deal. The tournaments for clubs and national teams should be more lucrative and rewarding.
We also need good grassroots development programmes, focus on women’s football and trainings for coaches, referees and match commissioners. The knowledge base of all those involved in the game should be upgraded regularly.
- A Defender and Protector.
The next CAF president must be a defender of the football interests and values of Africa and Africans. He must keep his ears close to the ground and be sensitive enough to glean information about what affects the key stakeholders of the game on the continent.
While defending African interests, the new helmsman should also be a protector of our football values and landmarks.
Our game needs to be better respected globally. We have tremendous potentials enough to attract good following, support and collaborations. African football can add value in return for all the support it gets.
The narratives that the African game only receives but cannot give value need to change. It is not an orphanage but a viable, purpose driven, forward thinking partner in the global development of football.
Our new president should get us a ringside ticket, a front seat in the scheme of things…we no longer want to be back benchers.
Best of Luck Izzy.
Israel Adesanya takes a massive step to underline his greatness in Mixed Martial Arts(UFC) on Sunday by moving up to a new weight category and seeking to become a double champion. It is a very daring move.
As usual, I won’t be watching his fight live but i will be following it online and hoping he wins.
Congratulations Dr. Mumini Alao.
Last week, one of the best persons I have ever worked with, Dr Mumini Alao was recognized at the 3rd edition of the Ballers Awards with the Sports Industry Icon Award.
It is one award well deserved. Dr Alao has been a leading light and role model for many and without doubt he will remain an epitome of excellence and greatness for many more generations.