Chiyangwa's strategy

HARARE - Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa last night hosted his birthday celebrations in Harare with Fifa president Gianni Infantino as the guest of honour.

Other Fifa delegates and various African football federation presidents also arrived in the capital last night to join the festivities.

Although the gathering was styled as a “birthday party”, it was apparent to everyone else that the purpose of the meeting was to strategise ahead of next month’s Confederation of African Football (Caf) elections.

Incumbent Caf president Issa Hayatou, who has been in office since 1988, will be going against Madagascar Football Association boss Ahmad Ahmad.

Already Chiyangwa has come out in the open and declared his allegiance to Ahmad during this race to the top post in African football.

Hayatou even tried to stop last night’s celebrations as he claimed Chiyangwa was trying to destabilise African football.

Ahmad arrived in the capital yesterday afternoon while Infantino later jetted into the country around 10pm.

Chiyangwa chats with Fifa boss Infantino at a function in Harare. Pic: Freedom Mashava

Shortly before leaving Antananarivo, Ahmad had told media that he was the perfect candidate to go against Hayatou, who is seeking an eighth term in office.

“If people want change there is no other choice. Only I can dare (to challenge Hayatou),” Ahmad said.

“My programme is the reform of the administration of Caf to avoid the involvement of politics in the organisation.”

Already, Ahmad has the total support of the entire Cosafa region with the Chiyangwa-led block vowing to vote for the 57-year-old during hr elections to be held on March 16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

West African football powerhouses Nigeria have also publicly backed Ahmad, who was elected in 2003 as head of Malagasy football.

Hayatou’s heavy-handedness was highlighted last month when Caf stripped Madagascar of the rights to host the African Youth Championships this April.

Caf claimed Madagascar had failed to prepare for the eight-team tournament but Ahmad thinks otherwise.

“We lost the organising rights just after I declared myself a candidate for the presidency,” he said.

“We must seek to diversify the disciplines, as we did in Madagascar with beach soccer, winning the continental title (in 2015).”

However, Hayatou is shrewd politician who has manoeuvred around world football politics for almost three decades.

In 2015, Hayatou, who is now 71, managed to convince the Caf executive committee to change their statutes to allow a person who has passed 70 to stand for elections as president.

Previously, the Cameroonian had also changed the Cairo-based organisation rules restricting only those in the Caf executive committee to stand for presidency.

This is the first time Hayatou has faced a stiff challenge for his post and Chiyangwa is pulling all the strings behind to make sure Ahmad wins the poll.

It’s not going to be an easy feat toppling the man, who was acting Fifa president when Sepp Blatter stepped down.

Hayatou enjoys fairly good support in West Africa s he has awarded countries in that region rights to host various Caf competitions including the African Cup of Nations.

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