African football’s autocracy

In one act Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou may have reduced Fifa’s “our game is fair play” to a hollow political slogan.

If anything, the most influential figure in Africa appears a convert of ex-Liverpool manager Bill Shankly’s school of thought — that “football’s not a matter of life and death … it’s more important than that”.

The Togolese national team was attacked by separatists in the war-torn Angolan exclave of Cabinda, losing three of its members, on the way to the Africa Cup of Nations last month. The team wanted to stay and play, but the Togolese government ordered the players to return home.

The CAF, which felt that the games must go on, was not amused and said: “The decision by political authorities contravenes CAF and Africa Cup of Nations regulations.” Pleas from the grieving Togolese to be accommodated in the tournament after burying their departed were dismissed. Emmanuel Adebayor and his teammates were banned from the tournament.

The Hayatou-headed executive committee, in disregard for human life, meted out more punishment on the West African country for daring to put the safety of its team first. CAF has banned Togo from the next two Africa Cup of Nations and has fined the Togolese Football Association $50 000 (R375 860), sparking an outrage among football lovers. Hayatou, who has been at the helm of the CAF for 22 years, now appears to be a feared dictator.

Hayatou has increased the number of Africa Cup of Nations finalists from eight in 1988 to 16. But somebody else should take over to prevent the sport from being at the mercy of a life president. It is worrying that Fifa and Uefa have been silent while Hayatou tarnishes the image of the game.

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