FIFA has been making headlines for the wrong reasons following the reelection of Sepp Blatter as the organisation’s president in May this year.
Blatter has since been slapped with an eight-year suspension for alleged mismanagement and abuse of funds which he continues to deny. The Swiss has also said he would be challenging his lengthy ban from the beautiful game as he maintains his innocence. Blatter was appointed FIFA general secretary in 1981 and elected president on 8 June 1998, succeeding João Havelange of Brazil, who had been head since 1974. Blatter was re-elected in 2002, 2007, 2011, and 2015 but the latter nomination had to be nullified after reports surfaced that he was the subject of an investigation into the way he was using, or rather abusing, FIFA funds.
As a football fan, it has surely been hard to always see my beloved sport making such unfortunate headlines because in addition to Blatter, not less than 20 other FIFA officials have been punished for their part in tarnishing the image of the game through corruption unparalleled in the history of the sport.
And as if this was not enough, FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale was questioned by a United States of America grand jury on 17 December 2015 regarding an alleged illegal payment of $10 million from South Africa to ex-FIFA vice-president Jack Warner. Sexwale, as reported by the BBC, appeared as a witness at the FBI’s request as part of an ongoing probe into World Cup bribes.
South Africa denies any wrongdoing, but the US Justice Department suggests the money was sent by South Africa, through FIFA, to Warner in three wire transfers in 2008 as payback for him and two other then-FIFA executive committee members for backing South Africa in the 2004 vote. South Africa won the right to host the 2010 World Cup by four votes over Morocco, making the ballots of Warner and his two “co-conspirators” decisive, the charges against Warner read. The 62-year-old Sexwale formerly served on the organising committee bidding to host the 2010 showcase but all indications are he would not be stopped from running for the FIFA presidency come February.
Sexwale is competing with Jerome Champagne, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, Gianni Infantino, and Hussein for FIFA’s top post, and one hopes he does not get tangled in this corruption web and is not disqualified for running in the poll come 26 February 2016.
For 111 years, FIFA has not had an African president, and I am hoping Sexwale could be the man to eventually break this overseas dominance. I believe this is one of the reasons why African football has failed to flourish because the people leading FIFA do not put the necessary energy into uplifting the continental game as they do in other parts of the world.
If Sexwale is backed by the whole African continent, that could put him in a very strong position because Africa is FIFA’s largest affiliate with 54 associations
Although the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) is still mum on who they will be supporting come February, Sexwale has declared that the Kingdom is among the countries rallying behind him in his bid to make history. I hope this is true of LeFA because having a FIFA president just next door would do our game a world of good, but not in a corrupt manner, of-course.
Like I said, I hope Sexwale is not tainted by any of these scandals rocking FIFA and stands in the election for a change of leadership of the game which some of us love so dearly.
Happy New Year!