Hayatou’s 29-year run as CAF president ends with election loss

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FIFA politics were thrown a curveball as longtime CAF president Issa Hayatou, who held office for 29 years, was defeated by Ahmad Ahmad in Thursday’s election.

Hayatou had been president of the African confederation since his initial election in 1988, earning a place as Senior Vice President of FIFA just three years later. The 70-year-old was defeated by Madagascar FA president Ahmad in a surprising 34-20 vote, with many officials believing that Hayatou had done enough to earn reelection.

The change in power overhauls FIFA politics considerably. Hayatou had been a longtime supporter of Sepp Blatter, and Africa under Hayatou’s command had always been a battleground that Blatter coveted deeply. Concurrently, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has hinted that he supported Ahmad in the most recent election.

“This is sweet victory,” Ahmad said after the result was announced. “When you work hard for years and months and you succeed, that is great.”

Ahmad, a member of CAF’s executive committee, promised during his election to use soccer as “a lever for economical development and a tool to reach social stability.”

New fans may recognize Hayatou’s name, as he was the man to take charge of FIFA on an interim basis after Blatter was initially suspended, before Infantino was elected permanently. Hayatou also ran for FIFA president in 2002, but was torched by Blatter 139-56. It was initially expected he would retire this year, but a change in the CAF bylaws allowed him to continue in his post beyond 70 years old.