There have been never-ending debate, comments and thoughts about the recent decision of CAF to make radical changes to many aspects of its statutes and competitions. When not-so-new CAF President Ahmad was campaigning to get into office, one of the things he promised was to listen to all concerned, and base his programmes and actions on the interests of stakeholders in football. He promised to involve everyone – most importantly players (past and current), coaches, football association members, the media (unprecedented) and any other persons that have a stake in the growth of the African game.
First thing he did when elected was to call for the organisation of a symposium that will bring all these stakeholders together and discuss matters relating to how to build African football, and take it forward.
That was the change we wanted – change that meant that all voices will be heard; but not only heard, but listened to and acted upon.
Being someone that can be said to be a close ally of the soft-spoken Malagasy politician, I was privileged to have had cause to engage him in short bursts of conversation in his first few months in office. When any issue is raised, he will always say he is waiting for recommendations from the gathering of stakeholders before he takes any step. He was determined not to do anything until the symposium was done. Issues of changes in the secretariat of CAF, running of tournaments, and all others, he just said, ‘we will see, after the symposium’.
And so Morocco steps up very quickly. Not willing to get involved in the politics of the why; I didn’t see any other country coming forward to host the symposium, so we all gladly accepted to go to Morocco and see what this symposium was about.
And was it a revelation! The symposium had everything. It had administrators in abundance, it had some of Africa’s football legends and it had the media. The media even got a working group of its own, where they were given the opportunity to air their views on how CAF can improve media relations and operations going forward. More on that later.
For 29 years, African football was governed in a different way. We have grown, no doubt, and it will be unfair to say it was 29 years of failure. Issa Hayatou did all he felt was good for the game, and let it be said that he was a passionate and committed African who always wanted good for Africa. But it must be admitted as well, that it was different, and after 29 years, it was right to seek change.
Thankfully, in March this year, in Addis Ababa, our administrators also saw what we saw, and went for change…voting Ahmad to oust the old order.
With the new order comes change. And when we talk about change to what we have had for 29 years, the transition can never be smooth. Radical changes have been made – complete departures from what we are used to. Particularly we have had change to our AFCON.
Swords have been sheathed, daggers drawn by some people. Understandable. But the voice of reason is also sounding somewhere there. It is change, after all, and we got nothing but Change. And rather than start to criticise what has been done in Morocco, methinks we now need to continue to back our African leaders, offer constructive advice and guidance on how to make a success of the change that we asked for, and that we got.