Issa Hayatou

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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.

Southern African nations endorse challenger in upcoming CAF elections

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COSAFA, the 14 nation confederacy encompassing southern Africa, announced its unanimous support for challenger Ahmad Ahmad in the upcoming CAF presidential elections in March.

Current CAF president Issa Hayatou (pictured), who filled in as FIFA president in the immediate aftermath of Sepp Blatter’s ban and before the election of Gianni Infantino, has been in charge since his election in 1988 following the death of Yidnekatchew Tessema. He is seeking an eighth elected term.

Ahmad is the current head of the Madagascar FA, and announced last month he intended to run in the upcoming election.

Hayatou, at 70 years old, had planned to step down after this term due to CAF regulations that barred officials from holding office past 70, but with those regulations struck down in 2015, he changed his mind.

The announcement by COSAFA puts pressure on Hayatou, who now must find support elsewhere in the continent. However, it’s not terribly surprising, given that Madagascar is a member of COSAFA. Ahmad is not on the COSAFA executive committee, which is headed by Zimbabwe FA president Philip Chiyangwa.

So… Who will be FIFA’s first new president in nearly two decades?

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Sepp Blatter says he’s leaving his post as FIFA president, and soccer’s governing body says the soonest it could hold a proper election is December.

So there’s the why and then (maybe) when for FIFA’s regime change.

As for the who, that’s another story.

[ MORE: All the FIFA news you need ]

A pair of candidates have already announced their intentions to run for FIFA’s highest office. One is Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, Blatter’s rival in Friday’s election, and the other is Luis Figo, who dropped out of the election citing a rigged process.

Who else? Well, we’ll give you the names already making the rounds and venture some guesses as well.

Michel Platini — UEFA’s president is one of the most powerful men in football and would certainly carry a good deal of weight with voters should he decide to toss his hat in the ring. The 59-year-old Frenchman has been a vocal opponent of Blatter and proponent of reform.

Sunil Gulati — The Indian-born and American-raised Gulati raised eyebrows with his confident backing of Prince Ali, and carries connections to two gigantic nations. His work in guiding U.S. Soccer will resonate abroad, but could he top a European candidate?

Figo —  Yes, he’s green, but the former superstar has not been afraid to rock the boat. His speech after pulling out of the election was both biting and brilliant.

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Michael van Praag (left) — The head of Dutch football also pulled out of last week’s election. Knowing that Blatter is out, will van Praag still have the appetite for the job?

Issa Hayatou — You could see Blatter and his contingency get behind the Cameroonian, who is in his third decade as boss of the Confederation of African Football. He’d fit the underling model, despite running against Blatter in 2002, and wouldn’t necessarily inspire the populace, but Blatter won, too, and would certainly like to wink at his detractors by installing a clone of sorts.

Jerome Champagne — Pulled out of the election well before the others after failing to land the minimum backing of five national football federations, saying he felt he was conspired against for being too independent.

Ted Howard — CONCACAF’s general secretary, this American is viewed as a more likely candidate than Gulati despite being better known in the business world than soccer circles.

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