In football, no matter how powerful any team is or how obvious final score predictions may seem – they are largely irrelevant until the final whistle blows after 90 minutes of play.
That seems to be the case when it comes to the much-anticipated CAF Presidential Elections scheduled for March 12. When this match began in the race for the highest office in African football, Mamelodi Sundowns President, Patrice Motsepe, was probably the weakest of all the presidential candidates, with the least experience in football administration.
However, as the game gained momentum and the mining magnate and his team which included SAFA President, Dr Danny Jordaan, ventured into the African continent, holding important meetings with key role players in Cameroon and Doha in Qatar, the complexion of the game seemed to take a different turn.
Motsepe seemed to be en route to securing the bag when he launched the much-celebrated 10-point Action Plan Manifesto in Sandton, Johannesburg, with not just the backing from the government and the Premier Soccer League, but also from the Cosafa president and various other football association leaders from other regions, including Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick. With the 14-member regional body unanimously throwing its weight behind Motsepe, half the war seemed to have been won in his quest for 14 more votes to get the majority of the 54 possible votes.
It thus came as no surprise when it emerged a few days later that FIFA President, Gianni Infantino had, through his representatives, brokered a deal which would see Senegalese presidential candidate, Augustin Senghor and Mauritania’s Ahmad Yahya step down in support of Motsepe. The deal would, reportedly, see the two candidates take up the first and second vice-president seats at the congress in Rabat on March 12.
The direction the wind blew in that meeting is no longer a matter of speculation, but fact, following an announcement by fellow candidate, Senghor on Friday evening that he was pulling out of the race in support of Motsepe’s bid. This should in all likelihood go a long way in turning next Friday’s elections into a CAF Presidency handover event more than anything.
But mind you, while the game is still on, all these are permutations in favour of, instead of anything definite until after the poetic 90 minutes of game time.
The game is still on and until the final whistle has been blown, football has taught us there are no clear winners hence it comes as no surprise that there seems to be some underground pushbacks from certain sectors of the game, who have not taken kindly to the fact that FIFA seems to want to decide the results before election day.
A new formation, Collective for the Defense of African Football (CODEFA), has come out guns blazing against what they call “the direct designation, without votes, by FIFA and some African leaders, of future CAF officials.”
In statement released on Thursday, titled, ‘Manifesto against FIFA interference In Africa’ the body lashes out at Infantino’s perceived interference in African football issues.
“What is the FIFA President looking for on this Continent in order to travel it constantly like this?,” questions the CODEFA in a statement.
“How can he devote a major part of his time to it, he who has to watch the pulse of more than 210 countries on the planet? A few days ago he was even on the edge of the Sahara, in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, for a single U-20 match, which he usually never does on any of the other five continents. Has he ever served us a photo or video on the outskirts of Trinidad & Tobago? or from Papua New Guinea to the far reaches of the Pacific and Oceania? In fact, in Africa, Mr. Gianni is in politics, giving the illusion of saving the last shreds of a latent crisis that he alone imagines to be deep, serious, requiring a radical remedy.
His almost permanent interference in the management of African football is now perceived as an attack on the dignity of Africans who no longer shy away from his guilty statements, sometimes to try to convince of the merits of an CAN organized every four years, sometimes for directly to (sic) lecture African leaders in broad daylight, or to give moral lessons to all those who defy the many prohibitions decreed by FIFA,” the group adds.
Codefa goes as far as threatening to boycott the March 12 elections, calling the congress an “elective masquerade.”
“Now, if it were necessary, and if you persist in your stubbornness in wanting to challenge our dignity to lead in complete independence, the continental governance of our football, you will immediately expose yourself to a massive call for a boycott of the elective masquerade of the March 12, 2021 in Rabat, which you have concocted with so-called leaders, unfortunately weak in reason and lacking in esteem for their own continent. This irresponsibility of some African leaders who have agreed to submit to the diktat of FIFA shames us and dishonours their own countries.”
As we move into the final stages of this match, one thing is clear: it could still well be anyone’s game.