President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has said the problem in the African football landscape is the leadership generational gap and has called for reforms ahead of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) presidential elections slated for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next month.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) and Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) president, Dr. Philip Chiyangwa’s birthday celebrations in Harare on Thursday, Pinnick said Africa needs new fast paced ways of handling continental football business.
“I just feel that there is a change that we need; that bridge we need between the older generation of football administrators and the younger generations.
“There is a generation gap between the [other] confederation presidents and the president of CAF [Issa Hayatou]. The president of CAF is over 70 [years old]; the president of CONCACAF [Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football in North America and Central America], Victor Montagliani is 51.
“The president of CONMEBOL [Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol in South America], Alejandro Dominguez, is 44. The president of Asian confederation [AFC – Asian Football Confederation in Asia and Australia] Sheikh Salman, is 51.
“The president of Oceania confederation [OFC – Oceania Football Confederation], David Chung, is 55. The president of UEFA [Union of European Football Associations], Aleksander Cerefin, is 47, while the FIFA president himself, Gianni Infantino, is just 47.
“So if you look at the generational gap, the leadership that we have in Africa right now is quite traditional and conservative. There are certain norms by which they may have been doing things which might be slow paced as compared to other confederations that are progressively minded [who] want to do things very realistically based on a [certain] approach,” he told journalists at the Internationl Conference Centre in Harare.
Pinnick also said that of the five continental football confederations, only CAF opposed FIFA’s proposed increment on the number of participating teams at the FIFA World Cup from 32 to 48 teams despite being the biggest beneficiary.
“If you look at when they were debating the increment of the [World Cup] slots from 32 to 48, it was only CAF that opposed it. So that’s what I’m talking about; the behaviour is not in line with current thinking. And that way, we can’t continue to be losing and that’s the truth,” he said.
CAF has had Issa Hayatou as the only president since 1988. Recently, more voices of dissent have emerged, with Pinnick being the latest on record calling for reforms. Of the 54 African football federations, Nigeria is one of the 35 federation presidents whom Pinnick says have endorsed the Mauritius Football Association presidential candidate, Ahmad Ahmad, as Africa looks set to end Hayatou’s 29-year grip on power.
“I don’t have any regrets doing what I have done. I just feel that football needs that change and in Africa for example, that is what we lack right now because if you look at all the other federations, after the scandal that befell FIFA, all their leaderships have gone.
“We believe for now, for us to be in line with the correct global thinking; that means using [a] progressively minded and very practical leadership. We need somebody that can give us that dream and that is why we are standing [for reforms].
“For African football, what we basically want to achieve is things that are new. For example, if you look at an African child that wants to play football, the only thing that disturbs them; the only impediment that they have is funding. If for example, a small country like Eritria is having certain reforms, they’ll be able to participate in most FIFA and CAF organised [junior] tournaments like the U17 tournaments.
“I can tell you there are some countries that cannot afford it. If for example, CAF decides to say we have a central travel agency that can cater for their flights to their various venues, you’ll find that we are going to have more Abede Peles, more Goeorge Weihrs, more Austin JJ Okochas, more Kanu Nwonkoh [etc],” he said.
“[But] if we do not do that [and] we only concentrate on the national teams, the developmental teams are left out because they do not have [funding]. [Besides] even if you look at what is happening everywhere in the world, everything is new. That is what we lack and that is why we are putting our weight behind Ahmad,” he said.
Dr. Chiyangwa has recently come under fire from the Hayatou led CAF for allegedly convening a ‘meeting’ of association presidents without the continental body’s approval. Chiyangwa more recently been accused of intending to overthrow the heptagonarian president.
However, Dr. Chiyangwa has written back to CAF arguing that the event was not a disguised meeting of federation presidents. The COSAFA president further argued that he had a mandate and a constitutional right to invite any of his friends, some of whom happen to be football federation presidents and one of them being an enroute FIFA president, for birthday celebrations.