Ceremony of African unity celebrated in Nouakchott
Initially four election rivals, but now united in one purpose, Jacques Anouma, Patrice Motsepe, Augustin Senghor and Ahmed Yahya have together agreed in Rabat, Morocco, and confirmed at a ceremony of African unity held at the Palais des Congrès in Nouakchott, Mauritania, a proposed new direction for CAF and African football for the future.
In the presence of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, several FIFA Council and CAF Executive Committee members, as well as more than 20 presidents of African member associations, the four leaders have reiterated that what unites them is much stronger than what could potentially divide them. This was the reason it was decided that they should join forces and form a team under the leadership of Patrice Motsepe in the lead up to the CAF presidential elections which are scheduled to take place on Friday 12 March in Rabat, Morocco.
The basis of a common programme, inspired on the initial manifesto of the four candidates is being shaped, and will include contributions of all African member associations and stakeholders in a participatory and inclusive process.
“I am delighted that FIFA has been able to contribute, even if just a little, to this crucial moment for football on this great continent,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino following the event. “The agreement reached by the candidates is a strong signal for Africa, and also for the world. Africa is present and is a key player for the future of global football. This is also a sign of unity and commitment in bringing African football to the very top level where it should be. A united Africa behind a concrete vision and project is stronger. United we are stronger. This is what we were hearing from the African member associations in the last weeks, so I am sure they are also very happy at this moment. There are some great challenges ahead, but also great opportunities, and I guarantee FIFA’s support and encouragement to fulfil them, especially in line with FIFA Forward objectives related to infrastructure investment, good governance, development and competitions.”
Patrice Motsepe, the remaining candidate for the CAF presidency, said: “African football needs collective wisdom, but also the exceptional talent and wisdom of every president of every country and every member association. That’s what gives me confidence. When we all work together with the experience, talent, and passion, football in Africa will experience success and growth that it hasn’t experienced in the past. It requires all of us.
“Football has a unique contribution to make,” he added. “The most popular players are from Africa. Africa has proven over and over and over again that we have God-given talent amongst the players on this continent. The male, youth players and the women players as well are coming to the fore. It’s wonderful to have good plans and ideas, it's even more wonderful to have passion. Our objective must be that one of the countries will win the World Cup. I think it will happen soon. The talent is there. Continuous investment in youth and academies and making competitions globally competitive will be key. We do need the private sector to get involved with financial resources. The commitment to improve and continue to invest is there and the governance transparency is an excellent foundation.”
Mr Motsepe’s enthusiasm was also matched by Ahmed Yahya, the Mauritanian Football Federation (FFRIM) President, who hosted the event on the day of the 2021 CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations final. “We are here to be united, and to be together for the progress of African football,” he said. “When I started my campaign, ‘Together, for African football’, I truly believed in it, and that we really had to work together. I had to put my knowledge, my know-how and my dynamism at the service of African football. I had no problem sitting down at the table with my candidate friends to discuss a common agenda. No one forced it on us. Each of us is autonomous. But it was a good initiative, as it was the solution to get together, to work together, and to look for a better future for African football, without it being a question of positions. We discussed our programmes and we decided to create a common one. So this is a common programme that will make African football better.”
For Jacques Anouma, the former president of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF), the new partnership offers a unity that has hitherto escaped Africa. “I am happy to be here with you to celebrate the unity of the African football family,” he said. “It is a decision that was discussed between the four of us, and the position from the start was to ensure that we go for unity in this election, because we were already tired enough of everything that was said about CAF. This unity was built around a common programme that we all wanted. I fully share this idea of getting together, of sharing our experiences and our intelligence. It would be a good thing for our common passion. I fully support this initiative and encourage it.”
Augustin Senghor, the president of the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF), also looked forward to the challenges that come ahead, and the new path for African football. “I would like to thank you for having accepted that I am one of yours and especially that we are going towards this adventure which may tomorrow change the face of CAF,” he said. “Once it's decided, it's decided. We will be behind the chosen one, Patrice, to help him succeed, not for him, but for all of African football.”