Did Samuel Eto’o just ditch countryman Issa Hayatou in Caf presidential race?

Samuel Eto'o
The Cameroon legend says change is inevitable despite his compatriot seeking an extension to his 29-year-long reign at the top of the continent’s game

With a few days to the most contentious Caf presidential race in living memory, the biggest snag on incumbent Issa Hayatou’s hopes of retaining his position might have come from his countryman, striker Samuel Eto’o who has said change at the top would be good for African football.

The Cameroon legend, who won two Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2000 and 2002, an Olympic gold in 2000 and three Uefa Champions League titles, is the most successful African footballer in history.

The 36-year-old seemed to call for an end to the tenure of the 70-year-old Hayatou who has held onto the top position in African football since 1988 and spoke in favour of change, as campaigned for by his challenger, little known Ahmad Ahmad of Madagacar in elections that will hold on March 16 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Eto’o has no vote in the elections but is a legend of the game.

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“Issa Hayatou has done a lot for African football. And I think that he thinks of his own succession [in order] to perpetuate the good work he has done. However, no institution resists the laws of cycles and change,” Eto’o told Francophone website Jeune Afrique.

“I just hope that these changes will help African football to evolve, because it is most important. The development of [AFCON] has improved infrastructure, and that is important.

“But the main beneficiaries of these changes must be the players, especially those in Africa. CAF is at a certain level of financial income. It is respected, within FIFA for example.

“But we should bring more freshness to open up other horizons. Without denying what has been done, these changes could prolong and improve what has been accomplished.

“Look at Fifa, the arrival of Gianni Infantino in the presidency has rebooted innovation, without making the institution pitching. Trying to do something else at the head of CAF is not a bad idea,” he said.

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The March 16, 2017 elections have been the most hotly contested since 1988 when Hayatou became president. Despite his administration’s success in terms of increasing the number of teams in the Afcon from eight to 16, five slots for Africa at the World Cup and several new continental tournaments, his opponents have called for a change to enable Africa football have new and fresher ideas.

One of the most vocal figures against the perpetuation of Hayatou in office is Nigeria Football Federation president, Amaju Pinnick.

Pinnick himself is seeking election into the Caf Executive Committee and has pitched his tent with Ahmad who has also gotten widespread support, including from the 14-member Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA).