Issa Hayatou likes his sleep. The Cameroonian president of African football nodded off while watching South Africa play Angola at the Nations Cup and is noted by his FIFA exco colleagues for taking ‘time out’ in meetings.
But Hayatou is merely stealing the ultimate power nap.
He would not have become a FIFA vice-president in 1992, been an IOC member since 2001 and been unopposed president of CAF for the past 26 years if he had been truly sleeping on the job.
That goes for scheming to assure his next four years in command as well.
Last year, amid increasing rumbles of impatience with his leadership, Hayatou supporters (and/or would-be successors) arranged an amendment to CAF statutes which barred his most dangerous rival, Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Cast, from running against him in Marrakech later this month.
Anouma, furious at being out-manoeuvred, took his complaint to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and is awaiting a judgment. Given that the statutes amendment was carried through, to all appearances, in proper fashion, Anouma may be out of luck.
Hayatou said in Johannesburg this past weekend that he intended his next presidential term to be his last (though Joao Havelange said the same through all the second half of his 24 years at the helm of FIFA and Sepp Blatter once said that a president should serve a maximum of only two terms and he is now well into his fourth).
But Hayatou’s continuance for at least the next term holds particular significance for senior figures, including many of his own supporters, within African football
Why? Because a re-elected Hayatou will thus control a majority of Africa’s 56 votes in FIFA Congress on May 30 and 31 in Mauritius. This is the Congress which must vote for or against the final proposals from FIFA reform consultant Mark Pieth.
Already the ethics system has been sharpened up. But Pieth is demanding a host of further measures including the appointment of two non-executive members to the exco, ‘fit and proper persons’ checks, age and/or term limits as well as full and open publication of all wages, bonuses, expenses and honorariums.
Hayatou and most of the CAF ‘old guard’ are considered to be fearful of the introduction of most of the above and notably, the ‘fit and proper person’ check.
Changes to FIFA statutes demand a Congress majority of three-quarters of the world football federation’s 205 members: i.e. 154. Clearly Africa, with a number of anti-Hayatou dissenters, would be outvoted.
But . . . the 53 members of Michel Platini’s European federation UEFA, has also come out with a written and formalised declaration of opposition to many of the remaining reform proposals including, in particular, the ‘fit person’ checks.
Add most of Europe’s 53 votes to most of Africa’s 56 and there is no way any change of FIFA statutes can be carried through.
Hayatou’s mission would have been achieved. Who knows? His fellow CAF team-mates might be so grateful at not having to jump through FIFA hoops they afford him the honour seized by Nicolas Leoz in South America . . . as confederation president for life (!).