Hayatou speech to CAF Congress

May I, first and foremost, thank Ethiopian authorities, the African Union and the Ethiopian Football Federation, which is hosting us today, for the support and efforts made toward the success of this event.

It is equally an honour for CAF to have the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the President of the African Union Commission as its guests of honour.

Your Excellencies, thank you for accepting to grace this august gathering with your presence, and to have accepted to speak at this ocassion.

Chosing Addis-Abeba to celebrate the 60 years of CAF is not fortuitous. It is the capital of Africa and of one of the founding members of CAF.

I cannot go on without equally expressing admiration for the tremendous beauty and majesty of this hall, the Nelson Mandela hall, in which this 39th General Assembly is taking place. This name brings to mind the sacrifice of a lifetime for the abolition of all segregation vis-a-vis blacks and Africans specifically speaking.

In this hall, leaders and African Heads of States regularly come together to deliberate and take decisions that impact the development of our dear continent.  It is expected of us today to do same for the development of our football.

Like the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity, or even our forerunners at the presidency of CAF, we would never be transigent as concerns the emancipation, independence, emergence and the respect due to Africa and to Africans.

The future of African football must be decided by Africans, you, members of the General Assembly, in the interest of Africans.

To us this means having an African Nations cup that is played every two years, at a climatically convenient time, in a format that makes it possible for many countries to vy for its organisation.

We urge African leaders to never sway from the path that has been traced by all the pioneers of the panAfrican movement, whose memory I here pay hommage to.

Singularly, here are those of my predecessors at the presidency of CAF: Abdelaziz Salem, Mohamed Abdelaziz Mostafa, Mohamed Abdel Halim and Ydnekatchew Tessema.

All four of them passed on into posterity as those who first placed a ban on South Africa due to the segregationist policy that was practiced there.

In fact, in February 1957, CAF, just hours after its creation, was the first sport organisation to exclude South Africa, although the country was one of its founding members along with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. FIFA or the CIO had not even envisaged doing that.

Its was still Africa, some years later, under the patronage of Tessema, that caused FIFA to codify South Africa’s exclusion in its statutes, until the later could come up with an inter-racial football team.

In 1965, Africa decided on the boycott of the qualifiers for the 1966 World Cup. At that time, FIFA reserved only a single position at the finals for Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The boycott resulted in an immediate allocation of a direct position to Africa as from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

So it has always been with great self-esteem that Africa asserted itself onto the global football platform, sure of its right. Without compromising, she was able to contract partnerships when that was necessary to increase her presence.

Such was the case with Lennhart Johansson, UEFA President, when it was necessary to negotiate five positions for Africa in the finals phase of of the World Cup as from 1998.

Today we have good reasons to imagine that, in a World Cup format enlarged to 48, ten representatives for Africa would be a commensurate expectation considering the level of development of our football, and what our continent represent within FIFA. With your support, you members, we are sure of attaining this goal.

More over, Africa equally deserves to have the number of its representatives increased in the finals of men’s competitions in FIFA’s age categories.

The domination of Africa is very clear here. During the last six editions of the Under 20 World Cup, Africa’s performance is as follows: 1 title, 1 finals, 4 semi-finals, 2 quarter finals, and 10 eight finals.

In the Under 17 years for the last 5 editions we recorded: 3 titles, 2 finals, 1 semi-finals, 1 quarter final, and 6 eight finals.

We took the conversation to the level of the FIFA Council, and we will commit ourselves, just as we have always done, so that this injustice done to Africa be compensated for. This will certainly entail a revision of the format of youths’ competition in Africa.

We have equally tabled to the FIFA Board the debate on the clossure of two FIFA development offices in Africa

CAF is the only confederation which has had the number of its offices reduced.  From four offices we now have two.

A decision we are till struggling to comprehend the reasons behind, despite the fact that CAF comprises 54 member associations, soon to be 55.

Meanwhile, the impact of the various development programmes, supported by FIFA’s regional offices, is undeniably evident viewing the transformation of our member associations and the results discussed earlier.

Having presided over the Development Committee and the Finance Committee of FIFA, I seize this opportunity to reiterate a fact. Africa has never received, and is not receiving a kind of Marshall aid.

The funds allocated in the development projects are thesame for all the member associations of FIFA, regardless of the continent.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As from January 1, 2017 CAF launched a new commercial cycle of its competitions.

The previous round, the first of its kind for African football,  between 2008 and 2016, with a guaranteed minimum of 150 million dollars, allowed for the distribution of significant amounts of money to clubs and member associations.

It also made it possible for CAF to project into its future. And especially, to be sure of a serene continuation of its competitions and activities even in very unfavourable situations.

Henceforth, with a guaranteed minimum of one billion US dollars over twelve years, we have more than average to keep up with the transformation of our football.

This money is not to be distributed to individuals. But to be well invested into the development of the youth of the continent. By creating an environment whereby the youth would not have to travel abroad in order to achieve his dream.

This is one major reason that motivated CAF to create the African Nations Championship, a unique competition in the world, exclusively for players playing in the championships of their countries. The last edition in Rwanda showed to the world the technical, tactical and physical level of home-grown African players.

We now equally have to increase our efforts in supporting our States, which are enduring enormous and multifaceted sacrifices for the development of football in Africa. Let it be said that without the governments, it is impossible to talk about the development of football in Africa. It is the reality of our continent.

I seize the opportunity to thank all the Heads of States and governments which, for 60 years, have walked beside CAF and the emergence of football in Africa, and which continue to do so.

Their involvement is decisive given that we have to keep up to the schedule with, and in optimal conditions, considering the tens of competitions that we now organise.

It is not an uphill task to keep up to this schedule. But we can get support from our managing structures which are professionalising, a skilled and devoted staff both at the level of the federations as well as at the Confederation. I hail all these persons for the sacrifices they undertake on a daily basis.

The road covered to have arrived there is significant.

The cake is permanently being shared. But to member associations and clubs. For the next twelve years, the greater part of our revenues would go as premiums paid to clubs taking part in our competitions. From the beginning of this year, all these premiums have had increases in relative value, which in most cases are well beyond 200%.

An update of the “Contract with Africa”, our development programme for member associations is also on course.

Following the extension and official opening of Mbankomo Centre of Excellence of CAF, in Mbankomo Cameroon, in May 2014, we are expecting to see that of Addis-Abeba become operational very soon.

Infrastructure, which constitute a considerable aspect in our policy for the training of coaches, referees, doctors and the various actors.

Notwithstanding the decisions that shall be taken by this General Assembly today, CAF would have to continue it positive progress and anchor itself on its strong stakeholders so that football may continue to prosper.

For this reason, it is important to keep to the principles of good governance, which are highly cherished at CAF.  As a proof, apart from the habitual publication of our audited financial reports, we submit to you today a new version of the statutes of CAF.

This version puts forth concrete reforms, which aim at reinforcing democracy, the seperation of powers, independence and the professionalisation of African football.

These proposals are the result of the work done by the Reform Committee, composed mainly by our dear Presidents of federations, notably Botswana, Cape Verde, Algeria, Senegal and Tanzania.

To all the candidates that would be taking part in the various elections scheduled today, I wish you good luck. And especially fair-play, to those for whom the outcome might not have been favorable.

The losers of today may become the winners of tomorrow. The strength of the Confederation africaine de Football is in its unity and its cohesion, and the organisation has to continue in it.

As the President of CAF, who today possesses and unequalled experience and wisdom, I urge you, whatever may be your decision, to choose unity, the choice of solidarity, the winning choice. The choice that will allow Africa to remain solid and to assert it full potential on the global football arena.

Long live African football!

Let’s celebrate Africa!


-The author, Issa Hayatou has been CAF President since 1989.