There may be dissent throughout the rest of world football, but in Africa, Sepp Blatter is always guaranteed a warm welcome.

For one man in particular, the 2015 congress of the African Football Confederation was a total an unmitigated triumph. Not Sepp Blatter, though FIFA’s president would have flown away happy. But Issa Hayatou.

The Paris-based Cameroonian has had his setbacks down the years:

Being ‘fingered’ in the ISL scandal (albeit to a comparatively minor extent compared with others) was one;

allowing himself to be persuaded by UEFA to run against Blatter in 2002 was another (a decisive beating meant a double defeat) was another; and

recent defeats for CAF by the federations of Tunisia and Morocco at the Court of Arbitration for Sport were two more.

But, starting from the satisfaction of a first ‘home’ World Cup in South Africa in 2010, Hayatou has secured his personal grip for not only the time being but the foreseeable future. Critics had better get used to it.

Hayatou was one member of the FIFA executive committee never assailed in the 2018-2022 World Cup bid scandal. Then the death last year of Argentina’s Julio Grondona saw him rise, through ‘mere’ longevity since 1988, to the status of senior vice-president.

Thus Hayatou is aware that he is one heartbeat away from the presidency without needing to run himself. Favourite Blatter is 79; Hayatou a mere stripling of 68. His own power base is more secure than ever.

His greatest, latest coup has been in amending CAF statutes to scrap the directorial age limit of 70. Blatter, guest of honour at CAF Congress, knows Hayatou is there, with his personal guarantee of unanimous CAF support, as long as he needs him.

Hayatou’s own term comes up for renewal in 2017 and there is not one potential rival even beyond the horizon, let alone on it. Ensuring this happy state has been high on Hayatou’s agenda over the past four years.

A new system is being introduced in two years’ time to enshrine regional representation for CAF on the FIFA exco. From 2017 Africa will reserve one seat for the CAF president, one for a French speaker, one for a candidate from an English-speaking country and one shared among the Arabic and Portuguese-speaking FAs.

This can be seen as representative democracy. Also, by a convenient coincidence for Hayatou, it defines a fragmentation which mitigates against the creation of any alternative power base.

Yesterday’s elections saw the election as FIFA delegates of Tunisia’s Tarek Bouchamaoui and DR Congo’s Constant Omari Selemani. More significant for Hayatou was the democratically enforced departure of Ivory Coast’s Jacques Anouma at Selemani’s hands by 34 votes to 20.

Now completing his second (and last) four-year term at FIFA, Anouma had been the only possible threat to Hayatou’s command.

Anouma had been rallying support for several years but was blocked at every turn by Hayatou. Decisive was the latter’s amendment of CAF statutes two years ago to prevent any non-CAF-exco member standing for president.

That effectively sealed Anouma’s fate. He had nothing to offer potential supporters except a wasted vote and a possible taste of the “culture of intimidation” which, in Prince Ali of Jordan’s notable soundbite, haunts the corridors of power in the world game.

Also gone, after only one term on the FIFA exco, is Algerian federation president Mohamed Raouraoua.

He made the mistake of once letting it be known that he had CAF presidential ambitions. Subsequently he was advised not even to waste time standing again. Bouchamaoui thus took his place with unanimous congress support.

Africa has one other presence at FIFA in Burundi’s Lydia Nsekera, the ‘official’ women’s football representative. She is not threatened, supported as she is by two fellow members of the International Olympic Committee ‘club’ in Blatter and Hayatou.

Hayatou can thus steer his ship as it suits.

This meant inviting ‘Dear Sepp’ to address CAF Congress as FIFA president, assuring him he was not in “hostile territory” (as at UEFA Congress), promising him all 54 CAF votes and denying a speaking opportunity to watching rivals Prince Ali, Dutchman Michael Van Praag and Portugal’s Luis Figo.

A small demonstration, if anyone needed it, of who runs African football.

Follow Keir on Twitter

  • PNT

    If there were an open vote there are at least 7 African countries that would not back Blatter. He is not universally loved and respected. Nor is Hayatou!

  • Simon

    Once again the idea that because the Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Mr Hayatou supports Mr Blatter. Also for that matter any Confederation
    President or their executive committee, can “promise” to deliver a
    “block” vote is completely wrong. There is no such thing as block voting.

    It is is each member national association that Independently decides who to
    vote for on May 29th when they go into the FIFA Congress voting booths to make their decision. Not Confederation Presidents or their executive.

    Or are you saying that each member national association do not have minds of their own and are herded like sheep on the orders of their Continent President/Executive Committee to vote what they are told to.

    As I have said before it is a secret vote and no member national association has to declare publicly who they voted for.

    Also the fact that that the challengers, Mr Figo, Mr Van Praag and Prince Ali where not allowed to address the CAF Congress could be seen by the member
    national associations of CAF as taking their vote for granted and arrogance on the part of Mr Hayatou.

    On a further point of my own who says that Mr Blatter is a “Overwhelming” favourite for re-election have the Media and Bookmakers canvassed secretly all 209 Member National Associations to make him so.

    For years many in the Media, also fans and people in football, reform FIFA campaigns , etc, Have been complaining about the problems of FIFA. Now when there are three men ready to put themselves on the line for the reform of our world governing body. They are being downplayed.

    Its as though some don’t want FIFA to reform and to have any change at the top. So they would not have anything to write about.