Two men who could decide next FIFA president

Wednesday 3 June 2015

/ by Colin Udoh
CAF President Issa Hayatou

Minutes after Sepp Blatter's seismic announcement that he would be stepping down as FIFA president amidst a siege of corruption allegations, talk naturally turned to who his likely successor would be.

His immediate past challenger, Jordan's Prince Ali heads a list that includes UEFA President Michel Platini, Luis Figo and US Soccer's Sunil Gulati.

Two names have barely been mentioned. One of whose might run. Between them, they control the better part of 99 of FIFA's 209 votes, and could well decide who becomes the next FIFA President.

Enter Kuwait's Sheik Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah and Cameroon's Issa Hayatou. Sheik Al Fahab, a former oil magnate, is a powerful figure in Asia. In addition to heading the Olympic Council of Asia, he wields strong political power in the region and was both brains and muscle behind Asia's block votes for Blatter.

It was his political might that saw Prince Ali defeated at the AFC Congress, costing the prince his seat on the FIFA Executive Committee.

Sheikh Al Fahab is believed to have been tapped for a run at the 2019 Presidency by Blatter and is also a leading candidate for future leadership of the International Olympic Committee. If he does not throw his hat in the ring, it might be because of his potential run for the IOC job.

Like Blatter, the sheikh enjoys the support of Africa and most other developing nations. If he does decide to run, he will take some stopping.

As CAF president, Issa Hayatou rallied all of Africa's 53 votes for Blatter. Little, if anything, is expected to change in the days leading up to the extraordinary congress.

Hayatou wields such enormous influence in Africa, none would dare challenge him. Not now anyway. 

In 1998, the CAF supremo tried to forge an alliance with Europe and backed Lennart Johansson's run against Blatter. That move backfired, leaving CAF so deeply fractured that when Hayatou made his own run in 2002, he came off badly bruised.

But Blatter, savvy enough to see the benefits of a united CAF, brought him back under his wing, healed the wounds and made both men two of the most powerful figures in the sport.

To keep his base under control, Hayatou proceeded to weed out any and all form of dissent. The latest victim being Ivorien Jacques Anouma, who lost his FIFA seat without Hayatou's backing.

Following Blatter's announcement, there have been growing calls among fans and media for Hayatou to follow suit. 

That feeling is not shared by federation bosses, many of who say that rallying behind a single, unifying figure in Hayatou is Africa's best chance at having a big say in the current sliding landscape.

As long as that remains the case, it will be a brave man who tries to run for FIFA president without these two.
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  1. I don't even understand all this write up, with no direction. As for me, is time Africa unites against hayatou, and kick him out of caf and FIFA.


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