Ivory Coast football is still waiting for its president

Former Ivorian international player Didier Drogba in Geneva, in October 2020.

After more than a year of powerlessness, Ivorian football is still looking for a boss. The name of a new president for the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF) should have been known on May 16, 2020. But the process has been polluted by a succession of crises, revealing the fragility of governance in this country, however key on the chessboard of African football.

At the heart of this soap opera which now seems to be calming down: Didier Drogba, the former captain of the Elephants. In August 2020, his candidacy was rejected by the FIF, prompting the player, also one of the most popular personalities in the country, to seize the International Football Federation (FIFA). The latter placed the Ivorian federation under supervision  » due to his inability to organize an electoral procedure in accordance with FIFA statutory and regulatory requirements « .

Read also FIFA places the Ivorian Football Federation under supervision

From January until December 31, it is a normalization committee, chaired by Senator Mariam Dao Gabala, which manages current affairs and is responsible for preparing the election. The ballot was set for November and, for the time being, three candidates are in the running: Didier Drogba, the former vice-president of the FIF Sory Diabaté, and the businessman and also former vice-president. president of the federation Idriss Diallo.

« We are leaving on a healthier basis »

FIFA was invited into the electoral process. During a trip to Côte d’Ivoire in May, its president Gianni Infantino came to meet the Head of State Alassane Ouattara and the Minister of Sports Paulin Danho. The opportunity to wish the best for Ivorian football and to call for its pacification. FIFA boss «  would like a single candidacy and the rallies of other applicants to unify local football rather than dividing it », Summarizes a leader of a professional club.

The National Union of the Sports Press of Côte d’Ivoire (UNPSCI) also played a role in this process of appeasement by imagining the concept « Ball on the ground. » The objective: to invite the three competitors to meet to send together a more positive message.  » They are three adversaries, not three enemies. We contacted them to explain this concept of Ball to the ground, formalized on June 1st. », Explains Anne-Marie N’Guessan, the president of the UNPSCI.

A call for calm that some seem to have heard. Such Idriss Diallo who says he regrets the sometimes violent verbal exchanges between some supporters of the three candidates.  » Today there are less tensions. We are leaving on a healthier, more serene basis, he says. There are three candidates, there may be more. Ivorian football suffers from these divisions, in an economic context aggravated by the health crisis. We are talking about the election to the federation, not a presidential election! « 

Read also Didier Drogba’s tumultuous quest to accede to the presidency of Ivorian football

Some people fear that this paralysis and these controversies will reinforce the crisis that Ivorian football is already going through. Its national team, which qualified for the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in 2022 in Cameroon, has already won it twice (1992 and 2015). And she participated in three World Cup finals (2006, 2010 and 2014).

But the local championship has lost its attractiveness and its clubs are suffering financially. The terms of the last president of the FIF, Augustin Sidy Diallo – who died in November 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 – were marked by several conflicts with some of the clubs, which accused him of too opaque sporting and financial management.

Didier Drogba, the preferred candidate

The rifts between Ivorian football players were closely followed by the Head of State.  » Alassane Ouattara hardly appreciated everything he saw and heard. He cannot intervene directly in this election, but he sends messages, via his sports minister, or to relatives of the candidates. In Côte d’Ivoire, the state subsidizes football quite widely. The relationship between the latter and the federation must be fluid », Intervenes a relative of one of the candidates.

In Abidjan, many are those who make Didier Drogba the preferred candidate not only of part of public opinion, but also of power. The former international has his entrances to the presidential palace and maintains good relations with the first lady, Dominique Ouattara.

Read also Didier Drogba, for the love of football and the Ivory Coast

 » The question of a Drogba-Diallo ticket is asked, with the first as president and the second vice-president. Diabaté is associated with the old governance and there is a will to turn the page », Affirms an Ivorian journalist familiar with the matter and who requested anonymity.

 » As in all elections, there may be reconciliations, alliances, withdrawals, or a desire of each candidate to maintain his candidacy. », Specifies Idriss Diallo, whose contacts with Didier Drogba are regular. And who, like his two adversaries, refuses to insult the future.

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