The indictment released by the US Justice Department on Wednesday made for cold reading, confirming cynical suspicions about the dirty nature of backroom football dealings and draining the credibility from one of South Africa’s finest hours.
On about page 80 of a lengthy, and detailed FBI investigation, is the gut-wrenching allegation that a senior South African bid official travelled to Paris with stacks of US$100 bills to buy the vote of Jack Warner, then the influential boss of Caribbean football whose block of votes were crucial to winning the 2010 World Cup.
The pride of presenting a brilliant face to the world in hosting a successful 2010 event is now tarnished by the allegations, which must be proven in a court of law but are hard to discount.
There have been a lot of denials in recent hours, but few with any credibility and none from the top of the football structures.
South Africa had been hard done by in its previous bid by alleged German muscle and the gutless morality of the New Zealander Charles Dempsey. The 2006 World Cup went to Germany but South Africa won world sympathy for the way it was stitched up and was able to ascend to the moral high ground.
In 2010, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates led South Africa’s bid and Nelson Mandela’s genuine delight at winning the World Cup bid in May 2004 was a day never to forget. He danced a little jig with the trophy firmly clasped in his hand, looking more delighted than any previous tournament winning captain.
More than a decade on from that day in Zurich, those images are now tarnished by the possibility it was not Madiba magic or Tutu charm that helped ensure South Africa won the bid ... but stacks of dollars.
It is now incumbent on the government to launch a proper probe and swiftly prosecute any wrong doing as quickly as possible. In other words, treat the festering sore with due haste.
Any person involved in any impropriety must face criminal charges and should be banned from football for life if found guilty.
The game needs a fresh start after all the muck floating about. South Africa’s authorities can show the right path to many others in the world if they spend less time on the defensive and rather seek to do the right thing.
Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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