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Who should lead CAF?

By espnfc

When Issa Hayatou finally ends his reign as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president in 2017, only four African leaders would have been in charge of countries for longer than he has controlled the continent's football body. For three decades, Hayatou has ruled and he is guaranteed a final term, which will begin on Sunday.

Hayatou has no challengers at the body's election. The only man who was due to stand against him, Jacques Anouma, was prevented from competing, first by a change in the CAF statues and then when the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) dismissed his appeal.

Immediate reaction is uproar. Hayatou has been called the same name as the quartet of men mentioned above: a dictator. But the intricacies of the matter are seldom explored. Was Anouma's bid valid? Were the moves to keep him out acceptable? And is he the right man to take African football forward anyway? Football Africa explores.

In September last year, CAF held a meeting in the Seychelles where they overwhelmingly approved an amendment of their statutes to declare that only voting members of the executive committee could run for president. Anouma is on the committee, because he is one of the continent's FIFA representatives, but does not have voting powers.

The timing of the change in decree has led many to believe that Hayatou deliberately forced it through when he learnt of Anouma's plans to run for president. Anouma criticised the move as soon as it was made. He called it "manoeuvres which belong to a past era," an "undemocratic act," and a "decision which doesn't honour African football or the confederation responsible for governing it."

Anouma even suggested other members had been intimidated into passing the statues. "The executive committee does not have the right to make themselves the only people that can contest the presidency of CAF. But the pressure that people were under, and the other things that I have heard happened, may be responsible for this," he said.

Although suspicious, the actions of CAF are not illegal.

Anouma appealed immediately but the CAS found there was nothing wrong with the procedure CAF followed and so, they had the right to refuse his bid for presidency. "The CAS Panel in charge of the case...decided to dismiss the appeal of Jacques Anouma, broadly following the reasoning of the CAF Executive Committee, whose jurisdiction to decide the contested decision was recognised by CAS," their verdict read.

"It was confirmed that the CAF Statutes adopted in September 2012 were applicable in assessing the validity of the candidates in the presidential election and Anouma did not meet these criteria because he had never been a member of the CAF executive committee."

The processes have been followed but, like a lawyer who wins a case simply because he has a better argument not because he is right, they stink. Hayatou will go on to run African football again and critics believe it will continue to stagnate. Under him, only three teams, Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 have reached the World Cup quarter-finals.

Whispers of questionable wheeling and dealing during his time in charge have often remained only that but some facts have surfaced to add to those worries. As an example, French TV rights agency SportFive own the rights to the African Nations' Cup. Its vice-president is Hayatou's son, Ibrahim. They sell on the sub-Saharan broadcast rights to Benin station LC2, owned by Christian Lagnide, an associate of Hayatou's.

Hayatou continues to promote Africa and recently said it should host an Olympic Games because he does not know if there are "10 countries in Europe that can be better than South Africa in that respect", but popular opinion is that his time at CAF should end. Without many putting their hands up to replace him, Anouma makes a good case as an alternative.

He comes with a long list of impressive credentials. He was the administrative and financial director at Air France, the chairman of the Ivorian Football Federation for four years and president of the Ivorian League for the same length of time. He also spent a decade as chief financial officer for the presidency of his country.

He has been part of FIFA's executive committee since 2006 and been linked to some of the most important developments in Ivorian football. Under him, the country built a national technical centre, revamped stadia and gave grants to clubs to assist with development.

Importantly, he believes in a cap on power and says he would want CAF's presidency to be limited to a maximum of three terms of four years each - 12 years in total. "That should be enough for any president to implement his programme," he said.

But there is one, massive question mark over his reputation. Anouma was, together with Hayatou and Nigeria's Sports Commission Director General Amos Adamu, alleged to have received $1.5 million in bribes from Qatar to support their bid for the 2022 World Cup. The allegations were later withdrawn but their shadow remains.

As a result, CAF may struggle to make a clean break with the people they have currently. But right now, only Hayatou is available as president and they have four more years to think of how the continent's football will develop once he is no longer around.