‘African football will die’, says Roger Milla 2

Between March 8 and March 10, 2013, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) met in Marrakech to elect its president. One candidate for the job: Cameroonian Issa Hayatou, 66, the head of the institution since 1988. His re-election is a formality. While in Paris, Roger Milla, 60, former striker of the ‘Untamable Lions’, Saint-Etienne, Montpellier and Bastia tells ‘Le Monde’ about his vision of African football, and the evils that plagues it.

'African football will die', says Roger Milla

‘African football will die’, says Roger Milla

This weekend, your fellow Issa Hayatou will be re-elected at the head of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). He has been president since 1988. What do you think of this?

He can remain at the head for forty or fifty years. What matters to me is that African football is managed and what is the role of the CAF.

Is this the case?

No, not at all. You can not organiser an African Cup of Nations (CAN) and not have a look at the federations, it is not logical. Some falsify licenses, other naturalize a footballer and do play him after two months when he should live five years in the new country before being selected. This is what happened with Equatorial Guinea during the CAN 2010 …This is not normal! Brazilian Santos waited five years before playing with Tunisia. They wanted to play him before, but we said no. We must do the same for others: no one is above the law, and when the law is written, one must respect its ruling

What does Issa Hayatou to change things?

I do not want to talk, I do not want to get into these controversies.


I do not want to talk about him, or CAF, it does not interest me at all. I have a feeling of bitter desolation, because if the CAF exists it is because of footballer. But have you ever seen an African Cup of Nations where former players have been invited? …

You’re not invited?

My last CAN as a player was in 1988 and I have never been invited since. I do not care, but others who do not have the habit of traveling, they could invite them. No, we prefer to invite Westerners who are supposedly great players. But in Africa, who are the great players if not African players themselves? When Westerners organize competitions, Africans are not invited. This is the drama: UEFA does not invite Africans although they participated to the development of European football.

A fewdays ago, Frédéric Thiriez [the president of the Professional Football League] said that if the French football is here today, it is thanks to African football. Nobody can deny it. It’s like this: we, as Africans, we always accept everything we eat.

And why do you agree? Why not get involved?

I cannot. Even if I did, my hands are tied. A few years ago I was a member of the Committee of CAF, with Abedi Pele and George Weah. In 2002, when Hayatou was presented to the President of FIFA (to face Blatter ), we were against him:so we all got kicked out from the CAF. And while we were kicked out,  we were being appointed to the FIFA. People found this ridiculous.

In September, CAF passed an amendment that seeks to restrict the access to the presidency of the institution. To be a candidate, you must be -or have been – a member of the Executive Committee of CAF. What do you think of this? Is there not a risk to lock the system from the inside?

Is it normal that? This is unheard of! Abedi Pele wanted to present, he was removed. Before him, there were Rachid Mekhloufi, Salif Keita, have been expelled. There is only “broken arms” to CAF, I’m sorry to say. All the great players that embody the true football are all outside, we do not want to see them.

Abedi Pelé is a football legend from Ghana. Even him was kicked out from the CAF.

Abedi Pelé is a football legend from Ghana. Even him was kicked out from the CAF.

How then to be visible?

I appeal to African states so that they cancel this kind of voting that can be seen in the CAF. Only them are capable of doing it, it is they who make the CAF. If tomorrow they tell their national teams not to play, CAF no longer exists, there will be more competition. They must bring honesty in African football. Countries spend a lot of money for football: they cannot allow a few individuals to monopolize it. Current players must also understand that it is their struggle, they must take their responsibility to earn respect. For tomorrow, when they will stop their career, they no longer have the opportunity to help football in their country.

At this point?

In South Africa, the president of the federation was suspended two months before the CAN, suspended by his own federation, when it was discovered corruption and match-fixing. This is a country that is honest, thoughtful and was able to respond to the love of football. After the 2010 World Cup, the Nigerian state has dissolved its federation. Today, the national team has won the Nations Cup. Everything has been set to zero, it is to have discipline and be a responsible country that wants to progress.

Since you stopped your career, in 1995, is African football heading in the right direction?

No, it goes in the wrong direction.

However, there are success stories, such as the Congolese club All Puissant-Mazembe, vice-world champion clubs in 2010.

Yes, this is an example, but that was more than two years ago. It was such an example, as if by chance, the FCA found them a thing, and Mazembe has been suspended. The FCA should have a look in all countries, because corruption is everywhere: it kills the football, it even kills youth.

This is true, and yet corruption is everywhere, it is global. Those who love football must respond, it goes very wrong, it goes very badly. In my time, the Cameroonian football was a clean sport, that’s why we got the results, since it has become dirty, it has no results. You know, several years ago, they wanted to make me the honorary president of the federation. I initially refused. I finally agreed. When I discovered what was behind the scenes and I reported it, guess what? … they withdrew my title of honorary president. Is too low. Blatter was aware of it. Things must change, if not African football will die. Again, the CAF should have a look at the African federations

Interview by Mustapha Kessous, Le Monde