Ahmad Ahmad, the former head of the Madagascar football federation, is the new president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Ahmad was elected by a comfortable margin at the 2017 CAF election, in which he received 34 votes out of 54.The election of Ahmad, which has made headlines around the world, is not only being hailed as the beginning of a new chapter in African football but also as part of a trend that has seen the ouster of allegedly corrupt football leaders in Europe, the Americas and even in the upper ranks of FIFA.
For nearly three decades, African football was ruled under the presidency of Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, the nation that put the Continent firmly on the international stage with a great performance at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. Hayatou was elected in 1988 and served seven consecutive terms. Hayatou has not been implicated in the FIFA scandals that started before the 2014 FIFA World Cup got underway in Brazil. These scandals continue to be investigated and prosecuted to this very day; they have resulted in the lifetime ban of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, a retired French football superstar and former president of the powerful UEFA.
Former CAF president Hayatou was close to Blatter and was also involved in an alleged bribery scandal that ended up with his banishment from the International Olympic Committee. African football enjoyed a fair amount of progress under Hayatou’s presidency, but this development is said to have been boosted by means of bribes and corrupt activity similar to the CONCACAF and FIFA scandals. Ahmad’s election is being welcomed for the aforementioned reasons as well as his involvement in managing Madagascar’s football with social responsibility in mind. Unlike other federations that seek to extract every penny out of the beautiful game in a corporate-like manner, Madagascar is testing the power of football as a tool for economic development and social outreach.
With Gianni Infantino as FIFA president, Ahmad’s term as CAF leader is expected to enjoy wide international support. Football analysts have commented that the relationship between Infantino and Hayatou was not the best; nonetheless, the Continent is on track to getting additional spots for national teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and beyond.