African football must rid itself of the corruption tag

S'Busiso Mseleku
S'Busiso Mseleku

Johannesburg - The football fraternity was shaken to its foundation last week when Fifa announced that it had slapped Zambian legend Kalusha Bwalya with a two-year ban.

READ: FIFA bans ex-Zambian chief Bwalya for 2 years

The organisation revealed that it had found the former African Footballer of the year, Zambian national team captain, coach and Football Association of Zambia president guilty of accepting an $80 000 (R1.1 million) “gift” – read bribe – from disgraced Qatari football administrator Mohamed bin Hammam.

Mohamed, who had a love-hate relationship with another fallen Fifa president, Sepp Blatter – who has persistently been dogged by claims of corruption and financial mismanagement – was banned for life from all football-related activities by the Fifa Ethics Committee.

The ban was subsequently overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2012 “due to lack of sufficient evidence”.

However, Fifa handed him a second life ban five months later, citing “conflicts of interest” in his role as president of the Asian Football Confederation.

That spells curtains for a man who was once one of the most powerful in world football.

Bwalya’s ban last week was accompanied by a fine of 100 000 Swiss francs (R1.4 million).

He has vowed to fight tooth and nail to clear his name.

I wonder where I heard that one before.

Just as we African football lovers and followers were reeling from that announcement, Fifa issued an ultimatum to two continental football powerhouses – Nigeria and Ghana – that they faced bans from global football if they did not clean up their houses.

They cited “undue influence”.

Fifa threatened that Nigeria could be banned as of tomorrow if the Nigerian Football Federation “offices are not handed back to the legitimate [federation] executive committee under president Amaju Pinnick”.

This came in the wake of a court decision that recognised Chris Giwa as the federation’s president.

Giwa lost the election to Pinnick in September 2014 and the latter’s term of office is supposed to end next month.

Interestingly, Giwa is serving a five-year Fifa ban “for impersonation and taking football matters to a civil court”, which is a breach “of the [federation] statutes and the Fifa code of ethics”.

Ghana’s woes stem from the allegations of corruption that were levelled against several officials and Ghana Football Association president Kwesi Nyantakyi, who was filmed taking what was purported to be a bribe.

Nyantakyi has since stepped down from all his football positions, including serving on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive and the Fifa council.

In a letter sent to the association by Fifa and signed by secretary-general Fatma Samoura, the world football governing body said: “If the petition to start the liquidation process of the [association] is not withdrawn by Monday August 27, 2018 at 11:00, the [association] will be suspended with immediate effect.”

Fifa says the order “constitutes an undue influence in the affairs of the [association] in contravention of Fifa statutes”.

Surely these developments, much as they affect different parts of Africa, raise eyebrows.

For how long will African football administrators be caught in scandalous acts involving bribes?

I stand to be corrected, but my memory tells me that Africans are always a common denominator in Fifa scandals involving bribes.

From former CAF president Issa Hayatou and Botswana’s Ismail Bhamjee to Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Mali’s Amadou Diakite, Africa is littered with banned and disgraced former administrators.

Can the continental body, CAF, under the stewardship of Madagascar’s Ahmad Ahmad clean its house once and for all?

Can CAF rid Africa of the stigma of being known as the most corrupt continent?

smseleku@citypress.co.za

Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku

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