African football governing body the Confederation of African Football (CAF) elected a new president Thursday to replace Issa Hayatou who has been in charge for nearly three decades.
Ahmad Ahmad, the head of Madagascar Football Federation, was elected CAF president, after defeating Hayatou of Cameroun, reports the BBC. Official results show that Ahmad polled 34 of the votes cast to Hayatou’s 20 in the election, which was held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
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After his election, an elated Ahmad said, “I can’t talk at this time. Only one thing — I thank God, I thank my team.
“We worked hard, but we won. That was the first step. The second step is to develop African football.
“Some days I thought I would win. Today I didn’t [think I would win],” he said.
With his victory, Ahmad, 57, becomes only the seventh CAF president in the organisation’s 60-year history.
Ahead of the election, Ahmad, a Father of two, proposed a series of reforms meant to modernize CAF and make it more transparent. He also vowed to introduce a new code of ethics and extend checks on African football officials.
Ahmad’s victory is generally considered to be a paradigm shift in the administration of African football that has had Hayatou, 70, at the helm of affairs since 1988. It is also thought to be a part of the larger wind of change in global football that has seen major replacements to the leadership of FIFA and UEFA, the European football governing body.
Before Thursday’s election, Hayatou’s position had been challenged only twice, and on both occasions, he won with landslide victories.
Reacting to Hayatou’s defeat, George Afriyie, vice president of the Ghana Football Association, said,”His excellency Issa Hayatou has done a lot for African football [but] it is time for him to step back.” While Liberia Football Association President Musa Bility added, “Africa has made an emphatic decision that we are ready for change.”
The new CAF president enjoyed a modest playing and coaching career before he took over the running of the Madagascar Football Federation in 2003.