Cameroon’s 2019 travails: Ahmad’s revenge or pragmatism?
Former FIFA Vice President, Isaa Hayatou, on Tuesday lamented the ‘unfair’ treatment Cameroun was getting from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over the country’s right to host the 2019 African Nations Cup.
Hayatou, the immediate past president of CAF, was worried that the continental body continually questioned Cameroun’s ability to host the Nations Cup next year, citing his predecessor, Ahmad Ahmad’s query of the host country’s readiness to stage a 24-team event.
Ahmad, who beat Hayatou to win the Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidential election in March, said at the weekend that Cameroun, “will have to work to convince CAF” that it has the required facilities to cope with eight more participants.
While Cameroun officials are worried that CAF decided to impose the new 24-team format immediately when they bidded to host 16 finalists, Hayatou says Ahmad should have withheld his comments on its readiness until after a CAF inspection team visits the country later this month.
Ahmad says the inspection visit from August 20 to 28 will not be carried out by Caf Executive Committee officials, as has happened in the past, but outside experts whom he has not identified.Hayatou is suspicious about this.
“The unpreparedness of Cameroun cannot be judged two years before the competition,” Hayatou told a Camerounian radio station. “There is an undertone when the CAF president talks about an independent evaluation team. This is worrying.
“Today we have five stadia; three stadia, Limbe, Yaoundé and Bafoussam ready to host the competition with two others, Douala and Garoua under rehabilitation. We are moving forward. Ahmad Ahmad is supposed to consult before talking. He has to first come to see before speaking as he did.”
There are rumours that the competition could be handed to Morocco or Egypt if CAF decides that Cameroun is not ready for it.In that case, Ahmad would be seen as exerting his revenge on Hayatou.
In January, CAF withdrew the African Under-17 Nations Cup hosting right from Ahmad’s Madagascar and gave it to Gabon without any clear reason for the decision. But African football followers believed the decision was a punishment on Madagascar for Ahmad’s ‘impudence’ in challenging Hayatou for the position he held from 1988 to 2017.
That singular decision helped to galvanise the young elements in CAF in support of Ahmad’s bid to halt Hayatou’s dictatorship. Now, eight months down the line, Hayatou is crying foul over the same measure being applied to him and by extension, Cameroun.
CAF has not decided to withdraw the AFCON from Cameroun and may yet allow the defending champions to host it for the first time since 1972. But the country’s travails on the road to 2019 clearly illustrate the saying that nothing lasts forever.
Until March this year, it was unthinkable that Hayatou, the former Czar of African football, would be at the receiving end of some of the medicine he administered to other football officials, who dared to disagree with him.