ZIFA president, Philip Chiyangwa, could prove to be the kingmaker in the Confederations of African Football (Caf) elections after he gathered 24 African football association (FA) presidents and Fifa boss, Gianni Infantino in Harare, at a gathering which Caf presidential candidate, Ahmad, might have used to drum up support. BY HENRY MHARA
Ahmad will come up against Caf incumbent, Issa Hayatou in an election set for March 16 in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia.
Chiyangwa is Ahmad’s election manager and has claimed they have enough support to win the election.
Yesterday’s gathering was said to be for celebrating Chiyangwa’s 58th birthday and his ascendancy to Cosafa presidency, but behind the scenes, Hayatou’s jettisoning could be the real reason for the meeting.
Infantino, who was accompanied by Fifa secretary-general, Fatima Samoura, arrived just after 9pm at the glittering gathering.
Among the 24 were Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick, Danny Jordan of South Africa and Liberia FA president, Musa Bility.
Earlier in the day, Chiyangwa and his project received a major boost after Pinnick and Bility openly threw their weight behind Ahmad’s candidacy.
“I’ve officially endorsed the candidacy of Ahmad today,” Bility told the media.
Ahmad, the president of Madagascar’s football federation, seeks to depose Hayatou, who has held the position since 1988 and is gunning for a record eighth term.
Bility, who once coveted the Fifa presidency, said he was backing Ahmad because he wanted to see change at the Cairo-hosted continental football body.
“It’s time to move beyond a three decades long reign.
“Caf is not a kingdom. I think there could never have been a better time to honour the life president Hayatou with a befitting event and bring this era to an end.
“I’m standing up for change join me,” he posted on an influential WhatsApp group.
“Either we perish fighting for change or live on like chickens. I’ll rather perish fighting to give Africa the joy football brings into our homes and communities than living on explaining why we are not going anywhere.”
The endorsement is another shot in the arm for Ahmad’s candidature, which has received the backing of the Southern African regional football bloc, Cosafa, as well as Pinnick.
Pinnick said Caf needs a “new generation” of leadership, following the change at the top of the world governing body Fifa.
He cited “post-election differences between Infantino, and Hayatou, which are irreconcilable”.
Pinnick acknowledged that Hayatou could still win, but said if he did, the veteran Cameroonian would need to be open to different influences.
“You have to listen to a larger audience instead of just a tiny cabal, you have to know it goes beyond you,” Pinnick said.
“I will definitely work with him if he wins, but my prayer is we need a bridge builder and that person is Ahmad.”
Infantino is expected to meet President Robert Mugabe, tour the Zifa Village and a proposed sight for the new Zifa headquarters in Harare before he leaves later in the evening.