Something fishy about FIFA presidential elections

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

Former South African politician and now global businessman Tokyo Sexwale's bid to become the first African to lead world football governing body, FIFA, as president, is said to have gone pear-shaped.

A number of failings and shortcomings have been leveled against Sexwale, including that he is not a "football person" and that he has failed to visit the African countries that were supposed to vote for him.

In the meantime, Africa, through its ruling body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have thrown its lot behind Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheik Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain.

Prelude to this development was a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two confederations last month.

Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) backs its own general secretary Gianni Infantino who also has support from South America and one African country, the new state of South Sudan.

It is these developments that have left me with a number of questions that beg answers.

One of them stems from the statement that Sexwale is not a "football person". If so, why did "football people" from South Africa and the continent not take up the opportunity when the position of FIFA president became vacant following the stepping down of the disgraced Sepp Blatter?

Another point of bother is the timing of the signing of the MoU between CAF and AFC, which one of the presidential candidates, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein of Jordan, has taken up with the FIFA Ethics Committee as not being kosher.

I agree!

But the biggest question comes from the part of the agreement that AFC will help CAF with "football development".

I mean, this is a sham. Asia itself needs football development. You don't need to look any further than where their countries are on the FIFA rankings, save for Japan and Korea.

Bahrain, where the Sheik comes from, is ranked 104th and Prince Ali's Jordan are a lowly 86th.

So how can they help develop African football?

You could have knocked me down with a further! There is something fishy here.

Don't forget that a number of African football bosses (national association presidents to be precise) were named by the UK Sunday Times as having received or solicited bribes from disgraced Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam when he campaigned to unseat Blatter.

While they denied the accusations leveled against them, the publication produced the paper trail and none of the fingered bosses have sued the newspaper.

You be the judge!

Another question that begs an answer, comes from the fact that South African Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan is a personal advisor to CAF president Issa Hayatou.

Does this mean that Jordaan, whose organisation is one of those that nominated Sexwale in the first place, advised Hayatou to endorse the Sheik instead of the South African?

If so, why? And is there no conflict there?

Europe has had a stranglehold on the FIFA presidency with seven of the eight presidents having come from that region with the exception of Brazilian Joao Havelange since the organisation was formed in 1904, 112 years ago.

Is Europe prepared to relinquish the power they have in football?

If so, why, and to which region, would they want to see the power go?

Don't forget that with 53 members, Europe have the second-biggest block after Africa which has 54 member associations.

Speaking of which, is FIFA regards itself as a democratic and transparent organisation (some will disagree) where all its 209 members have an equal vote, regardless of size, is it democratic for confederations to decide who to vote for? Is it possible for a Confederation to vote entirely as a bloc given that each association's president (or representative) casts an individual vote?

Should national associations not be allowed the freedom to decide which candidate to vote for individually without being coerced or for fear of victimisation?

FIFA Statutes under "Independence of Members and their bodies" states that "Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.

Given all this, these are some of the questions that beg answers. And in the lyrics of that famous Johnny Nash 1972 hit, there are more questions than answers.

For an organisation that is ion the process if cleansing itself,  it would be wise and prudent for FIFA to ensure that all candidates adhere to what the Statutes say about acceptable behaviour, what they can and cannot do to ensure free and fair elections come February 26.

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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