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23.01.2004 Football News

Abedi To Live To Fight Another Day

By Paa Kwesi Plange (for Gye Nyame Concord)
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Bob Marley is not a musical legend for nothing. His music has won international acclaim because he represented the poor and disadvantaged in his songs. “He who fights and run away, lives to fight another day” is one of his favourite lines. More than 20 years since his demise these lines have become the rallying cry for people who have had roller coaster experiences in life. One person who can best relate to this is Abedi Ayew Pele.

Last week the 3-time African Footballer of the Year and Vice-President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA) failed in his bid to unseat Amos Adamu of Nigeria for membership of the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

He lost the election 32-20 and probably didn’t get the vote of his own GFA. A vanquished Pele blamed lack of funds for his defeat. “I didn’t have the money to fight. You can’t go on reputation alone,” he remonstrated.

THE CAF CONGRESS

It has always been a tradition of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to hold its congress on the eve of the Cup of Nations tournament. Considered the quintessential sidebar of the tournament, over 50 member countries converge to deliberate over affairs of the organization and more importantly elect members to the CAF executive committee. High on the agenda for this year was the election of a president. And for the first time Issa Hayatou’s re-election looked suspect. It appeared this was going to mark the beginning of the end for the “only begotten leader” of African Football. The CAF inner circle was getting worried and for good reason.

ISMAIL BHAMJEE

His challenger, Ismail Bhamjee was riding on a tide of discontent from smaller countries over CAF’s decision to tie the World Cup qualifiers to the Cup of Nations.

A member of the FIFA executive member and chairman of the Conference of South African Football Association, COSAFA Bhamjee promised reform- the house cleaning style.

From the onset his campaign looked good.

His campaign was a natural draw for people who had an axe to grind with Hayatou and his powerful inner circle. Abedi Ayew Pele joined the bandwagon. Like you know Pele and Roger Milla were both blacklisted by the CAF inner circle for openly supporting Sepp Blatter in his re-election bid for the FIFA Presidency. Hayatou and his clique expelled them from the Players Committee of CAF. So it was just a natural progression for Abedi to endorse Bhamjee over Hayatou. Folks, this is just the background.

RE-ELECTION

Last week Hayatou was re-elected by 46-6 votes and given a 4-year mandate that runs out in 2008. One of the votes for Hayatou came from Abedi’s own GFA and by extension the Ghana government. Ghana needed Hayatou’s support for her 2008 Cup of Nations bid and sent a high-powered delegation to Tunis to re-affirm her support.

In spite of this Abedi did not withdraw his support for Bhamjee and stuck to his guns. That is a principled stance that should be applauded. He stood up against the CAF establishment even though he knew it was not the popular position in high places.

Our government chose the politically correct and savvy route and stayed the course which culminated in the re-election of Hayatou. In the grand scheme of things this is considered a win-win situation for both the government of Ghana and Abedi Pele. Critics of the maestro would paint him as a rebel. That is wrong. He might have a little problem in the arena of collective responsibility but that doesn’t make him a traitor. I share Abedi’s vision for reforms in CAF. His position enjoys wide support from most African football officials who believe it is long overdue but are afraid of the ramifications. There is a belief out there that the CAF hierarchy is very vindictive and unforgiving. Abedi and Roger have borne the brunt of it.

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