This is part 1 of a 3-part investigative series
Slumped in an armchair at the back of his barely lit office, Issa Hayatou does not get up to welcome his visitors, nor does he shake their hands. In this almost deserted building in the heart of Yaounde, there is a gloomy atmosphere, accentuated by the hollowed features of his emaciated face. It is one of the hallmarks of the disease that is weakening him.
The deposed emperor of African football carries the weight of his 75 years, but also of a tenacious grudge. He has neither forgotten nor forgiven what “they” did to him. Even less so the ultimate humiliation inflicted on him last August by the Ethics Committee of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), he, honorary president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which he led for nearly thirty years (1988-2017), is now suspended until August 2022 from all football-related activities.
The new leaders of world football probably did not want to meet him in January in the lounges of the Yaoundé stadium, where the Cameroonian authorities would inevitably have invited him for the opening of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), on 9 January.
He was fired from “his” own CAN due to the accusations stacking up against him. He is accused of having breached the rules of competition by signing a contract with Lagardère Sports, and of not having informed some members of the executive committee of CAF of the renewal of this collaboration with the French group, partner of the institution since 2008.
“When I left CAF, there were more than 133 million euros in cash reserves. Go and ask my replacements today how the finances are going,” Issa Hayatou says bitterly.
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