Patrice Motsepe’s status as the next Confederation of African Football (Caf) president is all but secured after his last eligible rival for the role – Mauritania’s Ahmed Yahya – pulled out of the race on Saturday afternoon, the third candidate to do so since Friday evening.
South African billionaire Motsepe is now the only candidate left, although the possibility remains that this could change on Monday if current Caf president Ahmad overturns his five-year Fifa ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
An entire exoneration of the Malagasy’s sanction is considered unlikely, meaning that Motsepe – who owns South Africa’s 2016 African champions Mamelodi Sundowns – looks all set to be crowned president when Caf’s elections take place next Friday.
Motsepe is Africa’s ninth richest man according to Forbes magazine, which estimates his wealth at $2.9 billion.
Less than 24 hours ago, all four candidates were still in the race but talks in Morocco last weekend, when a deal was mooted whereby Motsepe would become president with his rivals stepping aside, have now come to fruition.
In his withdrawal statement on Friday night, Senegalese FA president Augustin Senghor said the candidates had ‘decided to accept the proposal submitted to us by Fifa, Morocco and Egypt [FA’s] in the superior interest of the unity of African football’.
These talks then required each of Motsepe’s rival candidates to consult with their governments prior to pulling out, with Ivorian Jacques Anouma, Senghor and Yahya all duly mentioning their respective heads of state in their withdrawal statements.
Senghor and Yahya are expected to assume vice-presidential roles, with Anouma – who, like Senghor, pulled out late on Friday – set for a ‘Special Advisor’ role.
“I would like to announce the decision I have taken, in agreement with my fellow candidates for the Caf presidency after frank and fruitful discussions where we took the decision to unify the list of candidates for the Caf presidency, and this by personally withdrawing my candidacy and that of my brothers and colleagues Augustin Senghor and Jacques Anouma,” Yahya stated.
“Now, alongside Patrice, Augustin and Jacques Anouma, it is my turn to give back to African soccer what it has given me. This historic alliance is, in my opinion, the greatest honour for the future of Caf and African football.”
“Through this historic alliance, which will be officially announced today in Nouakchott, I have chosen to break with the old ways, divergences and behaviours of the past.”
The Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, which is hosting the African Under-20 Championship final on Saturday evening, is also staging a press conference on Saturday where further details about this unprecedented co-operation between the once-rival candidates will be announced.
59-year-old Motsepe, who has said he is keen to build partnerships and sponsorship within the private sector to boost Caf, outlined his ten-point manifesto in Johannesburg in late February.
The only possible obstacle to Motsepe being crowned as the next ruler of African football is the return of Ahmad to the race.
The 61-year-old will need to entirely overturn his sanction to run for a second term because a reduced sentence – which some consider possible – would prevent him for clearing the eligibility test required to stand for the role, which comes with an automatic vice-presidential post at Fifa.
BBC Sport Africa understands that the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where the 61-year-old from Madagascar is appealing his ban, will deliver its verdict on Monday.
The Moroccan capital Rabat will host the elections on Friday 12 March, with a host of other roles in both Fifa’s and Caf’s executive committees also set to be decided.