SAFA, CAF left with egg on their faces

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

The happenings in far away Zurich, Switzerland on Friday were quite interesting.

While they happened thousands of miles away from our shores, they might have serious and long-lasting repercussions on South African football.

If you have just crawled out from under a rock somewhere, FIFA, the scandal-riddled world football governing body, elected its 10th president to date.

And as has happened eight times previously, Gianni Infantino, one of two Europeans among the five candidates, emerged as the winner.

Oh! By the way, in the end, there were four after South Africa's - and the only African candidate - Tokyo Sexwale pulled out in the final furlong.

After ascending the podium to utilise his 15 minutes given to every candidate to address the Congress for the final time before members went to the ballot, Sexwale withdrew from the race leaving Infantino, the two Asians Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, and Frenchman Jerome Champagne to fight it out.

You might be wondering why dare I say that the results of these elections might have some implications for South African and continental football.

Well, a month before the elections, CAF signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sheikh Salman of Bahrain who heads the Asian Football Confederation. This was followed by the continental body endorsing Salman as their favoured candidate.

By this move, they pinned their colours to the mast and it was clear who they supported much as there were a few dissenting voices including that of the rebellious Liberian football Musa Bility who announced that he was behind Infantino.

The South African Football Association (SAFA), despite having their own in Sexwale, never voiced their disagreement with CAF, but instead started poking holes into Sexwale's campaign.

But Friday's outcome showed that despite being the biggest block in FIFA with 54 members, got it all wrong and it was proved once more that they are not as powerful as they would like us to believe and also no more kingmakers.

With Europe being the most powerful block economically, where does this leave CAF and South Africa? Not in a very good position I guess.

Infantino's victory actually left CAF and SAFA with egg all over their faces. 

Actually, Infantino's victory reminded me of an anecdote about an old wily politician who used to rule one of the then Transvaal (now Gauteng) townships with an iron fist as mayor.

The story goes that on the eve of every election, he would tell the voters in IsiXhosa that: "Abandivoteleyo, ndiyobakhumbula, abangandivotelanga soze ndibalibale" which loosely translates to "those who vote for me, I will remember but those who don't, I will never forget."

You see, there is a very thin line between remembering somebody and never forgetting them. One is a promise while the other is a threat.

Just as Jesus Christ promised one of the two robbers crucified with him who had asked Him to "remember me in your kingdom", that "tonight I will be with you in Paradise", don't be shocked when Infantino remembers those who stood and voted for him when it's time to cut and divide the cake on FIFA's table.

These things happen in life, people remember those who have their back when it matters.

And we will continue to wonder why Africa always lags behind. It is high time African leaders in all spheres woke up and smelt the coffee.

Catch a wake-up! And learn to play your cards properly.

Speaking of which, was it not a masterstroke for Sexwale to invite and take Infantino on a tour of Robben Island on the eve of the elections? I guess he scored a lot more points than CAF and SAFA combined just by that move and will soon reap the rewards of being politically savvy.

Just watch this space!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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