BBC 8 March 2017
Zimbabwe FA chairman Phillip Chiyangwa has escalated his war of words with the Confederation of African Football (Caf) by threatening legal action against both its president and secretary general.
Chiyangwa is unhappy that a birthday party he hosted in Harare on 23 February has become a matter to be discussed by Caf’s Executive Committee next week.
Caf had warned Chiywanga that hosting the gathering would be seen as “an attempt to destabilise” the body.
“They shouldn’t dare me with silly innuendos – making nefarious allegations,” Chiyangwa told BBC Sport. “My legal team is preparing to go into battle against President Issa Hayatou and Secretary General Hicham El Amrani.”
“If necessary following any deliberations that are prejudicial to my interests and standing, I will be taking legal recourse to the extent that Hayatou and El Amrani will be held personally liable for defamation.”
The Executive Committee meets in Ethiopia on Tuesday 14 March, two days ahead of a presidential election which pits Hayatou against his sole challenger Ahmad, who is head of Madagascar’s FA.
Chiyangwa is campaign manager for the bid by Ahmad (who uses only one name) to unseat the Cameroonian, who is the longest-serving president in Caf history after assuming office in 1988.
This conflict of interest provides the backdrop for the recent exchanges between the two parties.
Chiyangwa claims his party last month was both to celebrate his election as president of the southern African football region Cosafa in December as well as his birthday in early February.
However, he was advised on 11 February that the event would breach Caf guidelines since it would include not only presidents of Cosafa member associations but also those outside the region.
“The president of Caf, Issa Hayatou, directs me to send you this,” began the letter written by Morocco’s El Amrani.
“While it would be acceptable to convene a meeting of the leaders of your zonal union, convening a meeting with representatives of many member associations outside Cosafa zone is deemed to represent an attempt to destabilise Caf.”
Chiyangwa says the meeting was two-fold.
On 23 February, he hosted a party that was ultimately attended by seven FA presidents from the Cosafa zone as well as five others from across the continent (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria).
Fifa President Gianni Infantino was also in attendance.
On the day of the party, Caf contested Chiyangwa’s claim that the gathering was an ‘informal’ meeting.
The Cairo-based organisation queried why Chiyangwa used a personal letterhead to invite the Zambian FA president to a celebration of both his Cosafa election and birthday, yet a Cosafa letterhead was used to invite Mali’s FA president to just a celebration of his election.
In view of the different letterheads used and the established work visit of the Fifa President, it does not seem that it is an ‘informal’ meeting,” Caf wrote on 23 February.
“For your information, this matter will be tabled on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Caf Executive Committee.”
Chiyangwa says these were draft letters.
On 24 February, the day after the party, Infantino met with both Zimbabwe football officials and the country’s sports minister – whereupon a development programme for the country’s football was among the matters discussed.
“The debate on what the purpose of the meeting was intended to achieve is now moot as the reality of what eventually transpired bears full testimony to the veracity of my actions,” says Chiyangwa.
Next week’s election is seen as the tightest that Hayatou has faced.
During his three decades in charge, the 70-year-old has been challenged only twice and he registered landslide victories on both occasions.
In 2000, he beat off the challenge from Angola’s Armando Machado (by 47 votes to 4) before also heavily defeating Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana four years later (46-6).
Whoever wins the 16 March election will win a four-year term as president of Caf, which is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding next week.