Issa Hayatou

Issa Hayatou

by Tunde Adelakun

World football is in meltdown. My previous posts have shown the genesis of the whole episode, especially how it all started at the end of the World Cup 2018/2022 bidding process.

Then we saw the events of late May, with the arrests of the top FIFA officials, the elections which Sepp Blatter won, his decision to step down amid persistent calls on him to do just that, albeit after fresh elections on February 26.

But the heat raged on, and in the last few weeks, we saw more, as FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke was suspended over a World Cup ticket scam.

And, we could say it all reached boiling point when the fire kept going on and on until it seemingly engulfed the two most powerful men in the game – President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini. It is no longer news, what has happened.

Both men having decided to appeal means that the less said about the circumstances that led to their respective 90 day suspensions, the wiser…for now.

But then, in comes an interim FIFA leader, an acting President, Africa’s own Issa Hayatou, President of CAF, Cameroonian, a man who steps in as the most senior Vice President and expected to steady the ship in Blatter’s absence.

Hayatou is now FIFA’s Acting President, for a period of 90 days minimum, unless Blatter’s appeal is successful. If it is not, Issa Hayatou may be in charge at FIFA House for even longer, especially as there are now calls that the election be postponed beyond the February 2016 date.

It will be recalled that in 2002, Issa Hayatou bid to unseat Sepp Blatter who had only served a four-year term at the time. It was a bitter campaign between both men which resulted in a resounding victory for the incumbent Blatter. The two men then got very close and were almost inseparable after the wounds of 2002 were healed.

Many questioned Hayatou’s credentials in 2002. It was touted in many quarters that he was pushed into his candidacy by the forces of Europe, who all wanted Blatter out but didn’t have a ‘ready’ candidate at the time. Others said he was set up by Europe, with an aim to destroy him when he got politically damaged after his challenge on Blatter.

But Issa Hayatou always insisted that he was ready for the job at the time, and that the decision to run was entirely his. He told me that he felt ready for the task, and knew he had what it required to lead world football at the time.

Well, 13 years on, Mr Hayatou has his turn now, and Africans must be proud of this moment, when one of us is actually at the head of world football.

What can he bring into FIFA, especially at a time like this? Some of us who have studied him very closely over the years know he has a naturally calming influence in any situation. Nothing ever seems to faze him. And at a time like this, football needs someone who can calm things – a settled demeanour, a fearless person who will deal with the crisis around him as if it was an everyday thing.

Hayatou was born into royalty and he grew up studying how traditional rulers deal with subjects. As the head of CAF, he ran it for 27 years so far in a way that I don’t think anyone else would have done successfully. Even where his decisions were controversial, he still took them with assured confidence.

Hayatou can spend the next few weeks proving to the world that he really wanted the job in 2002, he was ready for it in 2002, and that he is as ready to manage this crisis as he was prepared to manage it in 2002.

As for us in Africa, we need to be proud of this moment, which, of course, was thrown upon us by circumstances, but still, a proud moment.

What we should remember is that so far, in all this, Africa has still not been drawn in any way into this whole FIFA trouble. Whatever that means, it still is a fact that no African has been implicated or investigated.

A few of our colleagues out west have tried to taint the integrity of Issa Hayatou, talking about the reprimand by IOC few years ago. But, talking FIFA, there is nothing on him. He has not been questioned once. His name had not come up in any instance. So I wonder why we can’t just allow him do the job of leading world football through this difficult period.

As head of African football, yes he has been in power a very long time. But he has shown a kind of passion for the game; a love for his continent, that I have not really seen in many African football leaders. His passion for Africa is boundless, as is his passion for the growth of the game.

If he applies his passion for Africa in the same way in contributing to the much desired and much needed clean up, his short stint at the head of world football will be one that we in Africa should be proud of.