‘Africa has made an Emphatic Decision’

An excited Bility

-LFA President Musa Bility Rejoices over Hayatou’s Defeat

They had never been friends! Not once—not at a time when the two-term president of the Liberian Football Association (LFA), Musa Hassan Bility, got to know the kind of man and leader Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, who had controlled the African game as the head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for close to three decades, is.

As a result Bility and Hayatou had been like foes in the governance of African football and the LFA boss had always dreamed of the day Hayatou would be ousted as the president of the continental governing body of football—a reality that finally dawned on him.

Bility old nemesis Issa Hayatou

Hayatou’s apparent dislike of Bility influenced the six months ban he received for breaching confidentiality rules in 2013, which is subsequently responsible for Bility’s tough stance against the Cameroonian’s rule and many of CAF’s decisions he believed were not in the interest of the development of the African game. The LFA boss was also vocal against some statutes, rules and laws meant to keep Hayatou in power. CAF said Bility violated statutes relating to the use of confidential documents. The Liberian Football House was also fined US$10,000. He twice took an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but was unsuccessful.

Bility was also involved in a fight against CAF’s rule changes that effectively allowed Hayatou to be re-elected unopposed in March.

However, being a lone voice (through his advocacy) for drastic changes at CAF meant to make the game more vibrant on the continent by allowing fresh ideas at CAF, and despite initial setbacks, Bility was undeterred in his criticisms. He knew that change was on the way; and has eventually arrived.

So Bility was gratified in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last Thursday when Madagascar Football Association president, Ahmad Ahmad, was elected the new CAF president—bringing Issa Hayatou’s 29-year reign to an end.

Bility was emphatic in his position that Ahmad’s victory has brought relief to the continent and it is now time for football to move forward. “Africa has made an emphatic decision that we are ready for change,” he told the BBC.

Speaking following the elections, a jubilant Bility said Africa was poised for change, which came through the ballot. He said for too long the continent was held hostage under a dictatorship; saying that the new leadership will ensure that the game is taken to another level.

Team Ahmad won 34 of the 54 votes. Bility told the BBC that the victory represented the overwhelming voice of the African continent.

Ahmad becomes only the seventh CAF president in the body’s 60-year history. The result was greeted by cheers at the CAF Congress as Ahmad was carried on the shoulders of jubilant supporters, according to the BBC.

In contrast, Hayatou, who had been challenged for the CAF presidency only twice before and both times won by landslide victories, was led from the auditorium by aides and told reporters, “It is not that bad,” as he departed.

Ahmad, who became Madagascar’s FA Chief in 2003, takes over as CAF President in a four-year term, and has promised to modernize the body and make it more transparent. Under Ahmad, CAF is poised to introduce a new code of ethics and extend ethics checks on African football officials.

Hayatou’s departure, using Bility’s words, is a huge change for African football as the 70-year-old also lost his Fifa position and his place on its Ruling Council.

Meanwhile, the outspoken Bility is noted as a man who does not mince his words. Speaking about the numerous discrepancies within CAF under the Hayatou’s leadership, Bility said in an interview, “I say it like it is. When it’s not right, I don’t back down, and that has gained me some respect.”

In his desire to see change in the global game, Bility sought to contest the FIFA presidency, with the message that Africa should take the lead to rebuild world football’s governing body at the heel of FIFA’s recent criminal investigations.

He was the second candidate to emerge since Sepp Blatter announced on June 2 — four days after being re-elected to a fifth term — that he would step down amid the corruption scandal rocking FIFA. Candidates were required to be nominated by at least five of the 209 FIFA member associations to get on the ballot.

“Africa is the largest voting bloc in FIFA [with 54 members], and we must take the lead to bring football together,” Bility said when announcing his candidacy. “If Africa does not put up a candidate, it says a lot about us. It shows a sense of mediocrity, and that our only relevance is to vote and make leaders. I think that is not right.”

However, he did not get the backing of Hayatou and CAF, and was told at a congress that he was on his own. He was later denied participation due to what FIFA’s vetting committee referred to as ethical transgression.

“We all agree in the world that football is facing difficult moments, and it in such difficult moments that great leaders emerge,” Bility said.

For the next four years at least, that great leader is not Bility himself, but a relatively unknown Ahmad Ahmad. But only posterity will reveal that really GREAT LEADER.


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