Winds of change gusted through African soccer on Thursday as Ahmad of Madagascar was voted in as the new Confederation of African Football president, ending the 29-year reign of Issa Hayatou in an election in the Ethiopian capital.
The 34-20 vote was a decisive rejection of the 70-year-old incumbent from Cameroon, who had been seeking an eighth term to take his leadership of the African game into a fourth decade.
Ahmad, 57, a former government minister who goes by just a single name, emerged as a surprise candidate late last year and was initially given little chance of unseating Hayatou, who has ruled over African soccer since 1988.
“With much emotion I thank all those who have believed in the change. Thanks to you who were always behind me. We have done it. This victory is ours. This is a victory for Africa,” Ahmad posted on his Facebook page (Ahmad CAF 2017) from his seat on the podium shortly after being voted in.
Ahmad, who has previously served as minister of sport and of fisheries in Madagascar, was borne on the shoulders of boisterous supporters after the result was announced, while a tired-looking Hayatou seemed stunned.
However, following on radical changes in FIFA over the last year and with a growing number of younger presidents of African soccer federations, there has been an increased desire for a fresh face at the helm of the African game.
Ahmad had promised an increase in financial support for African associations, business class travel to future Congresses for all delegates and to be more open to suggestions from member associations. His term is for four years.
Ahmad gave a rousing speech before the lengthy voting process began, while Hayatou did not take up the opportunity to address the congress.