CAF opens disciplinary case against Issa Hayatou critic

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- The Confederation of African Football will go ahead with a disciplinary case against southern African football union head Phillip Chiyangwa, an outspoken critic of Issa Hayatou who reportedly described executives as "cowards" and "cronies" for not standing up to the veteran CAF president.

A newcomer to African football politics, Chiyangwa has described himself as the campaign manager for Madagascar FA president Ahmad, who is running against Hayatou in Thursday's CAF presidential election.

CAF made the decision to proceed with the case against Chiyangwa, the Zimbabwe Football Association president, at its executive committee meeting in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, it said, two days before the election.

The 70-year-old Hayatou is seeking an eighth term in office that would extend his 29-year reign.

Chiyangwa's recent actions and statements appear to "attack the honor of the CAF, its president and the members of the executive committee," CAF said.

CAF spokesman Junior Binyam declined to give details of the exact charges or possible sanctions against Chiyangwa because the case is "in a legal process." It was unclear if the proceedings would prevent Chiyangwa from voting in the election, when Hayatou is expected to face his sternest challenge.

Chiyangwa told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he had not yet been provided with a list of the charges against him or told when his disciplinary hearing would be.

"Let me say it [the charges] will die at the electoral congress tomorrow," Chiyangwa said. "They are after me, but I'm after them at the ballot box. That's the decider and after the elections tomorrow I will sleep well and they will be miserable."

Chiyangwa said his "crime" was "standing up to the emperor."

A property tycoon who only took his first job in soccer in late 2015, Chiyangwa has claimed that Ahmad has enough support to defeat Hayatou and give African football a new leader for the first time since the late 1980s. Hayatou would also lose his FIFA vice presidency and place on the world football body's ruling council if he is defeated.

Although Chiyangwa has claimed widespread support for Ahmad, public announcements backing the challenger haven't matched that.

An interview this month with a Nigerian radio station -- from which comments were published in Zimbabwe -- appears to be part of the disciplinary case against Chiyangwa. He was quoted as referring to Hayatou as "our old man who does not listen to anybody."

Chiyangwa's comments to the radio station were reported in Zimbabwean newspaper NewsDay, which didn't identify the Nigerian station.

Chiyangwa was also involved in a dispute with CAF over a party he hosted in Zimbabwe last month attended by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and other African federation heads.

Fearing Chiyangwa was using his birthday party to drum up opposition to Hayatou, CAF said the meeting was against its regulations and an attempt to "destabilise" CAF.

CAF's 54 full-member countries will vote in Thursday's presidential election, when there will also be elections for Africa's other six places on the FIFA Council.