Sole candidate Patrice Motsepe has been confirmed as Confederation of African Football (CAF) president in Rabat without the need for a vote after a deal brokered by FIFA saw his three challengers withdraw.
Motsepe takes over an organisation still reeling after Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad became the first CAF president to be banned by FIFA in November last year, with a five-year suspension for “governance issues” cut to two years on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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Just a few weeks ago, Motsepe, Ivorian Jacques Anouma, Mauritanian Ahmed Yahya and Senegalese Augustin Senghor were locked in an intriguing struggle for the presidency.
But FIFA-brokered meetings of the contenders in Morocco and Mauritania led to Motsepe becoming the sole candidate.
Senghor and Yahya were given the first and second vice-president roles.
Anouma, a former FIFA executive committee member, initially declared the pact “undemocratic” but is now a special adviser to Motsepe.
As some CAF officials railed against alleged interference by the world body, FIFA president Gianni Infantino played down the role of his organisation.
“I am delighted that FIFA has been able to contribute, even if just a little, to this crucial moment for football on this great continent,” he said.
Former Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach Claude Le Roy questioned the involvement of FIFA in Motsepe’s election, given they “would not dare do so in Europe or South America”.
“Infantino, stop the massacre with African football … imposing your law on Africa in the elections,” Le Roy told AFP news agency.
After a promising start, Ahmad stumbled from one crisis to another, which eventually led to him exiting the presidency in disgrace.
FIFA became so concerned by governance issues at CAF that it sent its secretary general Fatma Samoura to Cairo for six months to assist in the running of the confederation.
— Samuel Eto’o (@SamuelEtoo) March 12, 2021
Motsepe is the ninth-richest man in Africa with a personal wealth estimated at $2.9bn by Forbes magazine.
He owns 2016 CAF Champions League winners Mamelodi Sundowns.
The South African mining magnate pleaded for unity as he seeks to fix the troubled organisation.
“Africa needs collective wisdom, but also the exceptional talent and wisdom of every [national football association] president and every member nation,” Motsepe said.
“When we all work together, football in Africa will experience success and growth that it has not enjoyed in the past.”
Motsepe said there was a “sense of extreme urgency” to “stabilise the financial position of CAF”.
However, he also emphasised improving the performances of African teams on the global stage.
“Football is a powerful tool to reassert the pride, the dignity, the global respect of Africans, and Africa can produce and compete at the highest level in the world, both at the World Cup as well as the FIFA club championships,” he said.