FIFA corruption scandal gets messy

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

Pretty sure I am not the only one who was intrigued, and even disturbed at the turn of events in FIFA again, in the last week. Should it have come as a surprise? Some of us naively thought that we were at the end of the allegations, the indictments, the picking up, the release of evidence.

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

We thought we were set for the process of genuine reforms to start, and for new leaders to emerge for our sport.So the intrigue started with what would now be seen, in hindsight, as a warning light flashed by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch when she said on Wednesday that the investigations have moved to another gear, and that more arrests are likely soon. Whether connected or not, it so happened that 24 hours later came the news of the suspension of FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke.

It meant that football is still tainted. No matter what the result of the investigation of the FIFA Ethics Committee, it still means that there is filth in our football. With the speculations as to what really led to the suspension of Mr Valcke, one thing that we all should realise is that, whoever comes up trumps in the battle for the leadership of FIFA will most likely not be the clean solution we need to put true reforms into the sport, but more likely to be the cutest at covering his tracks, and the cleverest at revealing the dirt of his rivals.

I hope I am proved wrong though. Time will tell.But back to the issue of the battle for the leadership of FIFA, back to the issue of February 26, the date for the election of a new FIFA President. We have heard of the big candidates ? Michel Platini, Prince Ali of Jordan, Dr Chung Mong-joon of South Korea. In Africa, things have been surprisingly quiet.

Not sure why. Is it because the are no credible candidates who can stand? Or are we too scared to throw African names in the hat?Africa has 54 members in FIFA. With a consensus African candidate, that could mean a guaranteed 54 votes out of a required 105 to win. Surely that must be an attractive proposition for a worthy African candidate? Having used the words ?credible? and ?worthy? and the lack of it in the African ranks, I am sure my brothers who have already declared their hands will be somewhat displeased with me.

But for all the possible names who have been in football that could have come to mind, only the likes of Kalu Orji, Segun Odegbami (both Nigerians), Musa Bility of Liberia and Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa have brought their names to the fore, as willing to contest the FIFA Presidency. This is the Presidency of FIFA we are talking about ? the leadership of world football! And I am hoping these people I have mentioned above are actually aware of this! It is no joke.

It is an organisation that runs the game of football worldwide, that upholds the rules of the game, that organises world cups and global tournaments every so often. We are talking of an organisation that, despite all the mud around it at the moment, can not be faulted in organisation and meticulousness. For goodness sake. It?s not a local football team. It?s not a body of 15 people who have no real impact on anything, even themselves.It?s FIFA, the organisation of world football.

The game upon which the livelihood of millions, if not billions, depend.We need to get serious. Africa is a big continent, a continent that has contributed a lot to the growth of the game. To put forward funny comedians as Presidential candidates for the world governing body of football will just make us the laughing stock of the global game. Do we really need that? Orji Uzo Kalu is a businessman in Nigeria, a very successful businessman who prides himself of making his first million (of a strong naira at the time) at a very tender age ? 28 or thereabouts.

He then entered into the politics of Nigeria and became a state governor. He made money, he made a name. In football Kalu was, by virtue of his position of governor, in charge of the state-owned football club Enyimba, and under him, the club won back-to-back African Champions League trophies. He left government and, as far as the outside world knows, that was it for him and football.

Apart from the occasional outburst which saw him express a desire to become Nigeria Football Federation President, an offer of his palatial mansion to host a CAF Congress, not much else is known of his involvement in football, not even at local level, never mind the international side! Where did that thought process come from to say that what Mr Kalu has done so far makes him a worthy candidate for FIFA Presidency?Musa Bility is my friend. He is President of the Liberia FA. I like him. He has guts. And he has ambition.

I recall that in 2012, when Ivorian Jacques Anouma expressed a weird desire to contest the CAF Presidency against the incumbent Issa Hayatou, Musa was in the thick of things. Algerian FA President Mohamed Raouraoua proposed an amendment to the existing statutes of CAF, which, if it went through, will make an Anouma bid ineligible.

I remember that we went to Seychelles to debate this proposed amendment and, despite overwhelming support, Musa was one person who opposed it and spoke up. Basically his words were ?why would I put my name to a proposal that will see me disqualify myself from wanting to be CAF President?? And he did vote against the amendment, albeit futilely. Musa has not aspired for the CAF Presidency.

He?s gone for the big one ? the FIFA office. Not much is known of Tokyo Sexwale. Not in football terms anyway. If we are talking political activism, yes. If we are talking about tough talking political ability, an ability to use experiences as a political prisoner who shared prison yards with the great Nelson Mandela, yes. But for heavens sake, talking football, international football, world football at the highest possible level? Seriously?I can?t say much more there.

And as for the one I regard as my ?Egbon?, a footballer I saw as an elder brother figure, someone I tried to play like in my very very short football playing career ? Segun Odegbami, I ask, why? Odegbami was a cult figure in Nigerian football in the 1970s. He had fantastic ability, and accuracy which earned him the nickname ?mathematical?. Odegbami can take the ball on the touchline at top sprint speed for the whole length of a football pitch. He was good in the air, and scored a good few goals, including one in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations that Nigeria won for the first time in 1980.

After his playing days, he became General Manager of Shooting Stars in Nigeria, and later in Gateway FC, again in Nigeria. One remarkable thing is, he is also very ambitious. He has tried, four or five times to stand in elections to become President of the Nigeria Football Federation. He always lost. He has put himself forward for other positions in Nigerian sport but it never really worked out. Apart from when he played, something always seemed to work against him in Nigeria. And out of the blue, ?Big Sege? has decided to go for the big one ? the FIFA Presidency.

Is that the best Africa can produce? Kalu and Odegbami are not even likely to get the nomination of their country ? Nigeria ? let alone be nominated by four others. Musa Bility has tried. He has reached out to various colleagues. He went to CAF to seek endorsement. But no one seems ready to put their name to his candidacy.

So the question again is, are these the best we can bring out of Africa? No disrespect to their persons, or to their ambition ? after all, it?s a free world ? but could they have at least tried a bit harder to prove themselves as worthy pan-African football people before going for this one? Why do we always try to ridicule our continent, and then cry foul when anyone tries to do it to us? Isn?t it a popular saying that charity begins at home? At this moment, Africa has no candidate.

The four aforementioned are, for want of a different word to qualify the collection, a joke. And we need to sit up in Africa. Can we not find a candidate that has done more in world football than some of the big names that the world has put up, from Jordan, Kuwait or from France? Without mentioning names, is there no one better from South Africa, for instance? Where will the candidacies of these four people go when, by October 26, they do not get the five nominations they require? Puff?..up in smoke.

Is that what they wanted to achieve by stating their desire to contest? Did they realistically think they stood a chance of occupying that big office in Zurich?If we can?t get a candidate to stand for the election in Africa, then the next best thing is to ask ? who will serve our interests in Africa and ensure that the contribution of Africans to global success in football is recognised and sustained? Who can we put our trust in, for the development of football in our continent?With what we have seen in world football since 2010 after the World Cup hosting vote to date, with the developments, the arrests, the betrayals, it is no joke.

It is not funny at all. And we should all be genuinely concerned for the future. Not funny at all.But take one look at the list of four African entrants in the race for FIFA, a foursome that have a collective football CV that will struggle to fill one A4 page between them, and you can not but laugh.

By : Patrick Doamekpor

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