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March 16, 2017 | Uhuruspirit

Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad elected president of the Confederation of African Football, this Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Addis Ababa. In this photo, Ahmad is seen being lifted shoulder high by his supporters after he emerged victorious.

Ahmad Ahmad was elected president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in Addis Ababa. The Malagasy beat Issa Hayatou by 34 votes to 20. The Cameroonian has been in power since 1988. His fall is a huge surprise in the world of football and African sport.

Thunder in the world of football! Issa Hayatou, the last of the Mohicans of a generation of leaders, fell on 16 March 2017 in Addis Ababa. Liberating shouts of joy were heard in the Nelson Mandela auditorium of the African Union.

"All this means that Africa is ready for change," says Ghanaian President Kwesi Nyantakyi. "We must embrace this change and move forward."

Hayatou, the former head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) since 1988, was beaten by 34 votes to 20 against Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad in the election.

In fact, the victory of Mr. Ahmad is a great surprise. Little known a few months ago, the head of the Malagasy Football Federation (FMF) since 2003 had announced his candidacy in January. His declaration was considered suicidal, as only two people had the courage to face Issa Hayatou in elections in 29 years.

Ahmad first gained support from Southern African federations (Cosafa) and major Anglophone countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, before gradually rallying in some French-speaking countries.

The Malagasy had been remarkably discreet during this 60th anniversary of the CAF. But his strategy was to convince one by one the various undecided.

"It's going on, it's going on," he said in a big smile the day before in a hotel corridor. A statement that might sound like a bluff, as he came out of a meeting with only about fifteen delegates.

But the Malagasy may not have been alone in this affair. A source said that in the room of the President of the International Federation of Football (FIFA), who attended the event, the negotiations continued all night in favor of the Malagasy.

Gianni Infantino had been accused for several months of riding for Issa Hayatou's rival. On the side of FIFA, a source indicates that this result can in any case only calm relations that have become tense with CAF, since Infantino took over the leadership of FIFA in February 2016.

Unlike Issa Hayatou, who had spoken out against FIFA over the last few weeks, Ahmad was particularly diplomatic in his speech before the vote. A clear, concrete and seductive speech, often pronounced in English, sometimes in Portuguese and Arabic.

"I am not a candidate to serve my personal ambitions but to ensure that each of you can express freely and participate in the future of African football," he said in a reference to Issa Hayatou, who is often accused of Patronage and nepotism.

"Democracy has spoken," concludes the president of the Senegalese Federation Augustin Senghor after the vote. "The General Assembly decided to open a new page. We hope to move on to another stage to improve what has been done. [...] But we must also, today, with this step that marks the departure of President Hayatou, pay him homage for all he has done. We've had a lot of stress on the length of his term, but we also need to focus on his accomplishments to see that with him the CAF has made a big leap."

Seyi Akinwunmi, vice president of the Nigeria Football Federation, said: "Hayatou is a colossus who has bestrode African football for decades. But it's a new dawn, all should be happy.

"We're Africans and Africans never forget their elders. An elder has been defeated today, but he's still an elder.

"The world has moved on, we really need energy. And the truth is Issa Hayatou is almost 70. There's only so much really that he can do.

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