President Issa Hayatou is the favourite to win the CAF Presisdency when the continental body goes to the polls in Addis Ababa, Ethioia on March 16th.
The respected long serving Hayatou has transformed African football into a big industry – raising it from a moribund organization a couple of years ago. The Cameroonian leader took over in 1988 during the CAF congress in Casablanca and since then, the former athlete has never looked back.
When he took over, CAF had a few competitions and the main AFCON was an eight nation contest in the final round of the competition. There was no money in CAF then and the Headquarter was housed in a private property in the middle of Cairo.
But the visionary leader took deliberate efforts to turn round the organization and make it one of the highly profitable sports organizations in Africa. He has also overseen the expansion of CAF competitions by introducing several competitions that has seen football played virtually in every corner of the continent.
During his tenure, AFCON has grown into a 16 nation final contest with high profile competitions staged after every two years. Big money has come in as prize money as well finalists teams getting some cash for preparations.
The African Champions league and the CAF confederation cup have also expanded and become highly lucrative and competitive.
The women have not been left behind – thanks to President Hayatou’s concern for gender balance in African football. He has taken Women football seriously and the women competitions have been given prominent position in CAF calendar.
The youth are also the biggest beneficiaries of Hayatou’s legacy. The Under 17 and under 20 are played across the continent. Beach soccer, futsal etc are other competitions that have been initiated by Hayatou.
During his eventful tenure, Africa has secured five slots in the FIFA World Cup and a good number of Africans are sitting on the high table of FIFA Council. He is not resting as he still asks for more for Africa in FIFA and IOC where he also sits.
The sponsors have flocked in to support African football due to the trust and faith they have in the leadership of Doctor Hayatou.
Today in Africa, federations are receiving financial boost from CAF to organize a series of activities within their federations.
When the continent goes to the polls in Addis Ababa, Hayatou will remain the hot favourite to retain the seat and pursue other progressive plans for African football.