Another grim blow for SA soccer's closest friends


Cape Town - As disgraced FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke this week faced the prospect of a nine-year ban from soccer, the South African Football Association (SAFA) could well be pondering over Thomas James' time-worn assessment that "a doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy."

In truth, with the plight in which Valcke finds himself, the embarrassing situation has now materialised that what might at one time or another have been considered South African soccer's closest friends at FIFA and on the international soccer spectrum, namely suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter, his close associate, Valcke, the infamous former FIFA vice-president, Jack Warner and under-investigation German legend Franz Beckenbauer are all wallowing in hot water.

At best, SAFA might well be pondering over now as to whether with friends like this, who indeed needs enemies?

Little wonder that when Beckenbauer recently endorsed Tokyo Sexwale as a suitable choice to replace Blatter as FIFA president, South Africa's candidate tended to distance himself from this endorsement.

But perhaps most disturbing remains the $10 million payment to Warner which  SAFA claims was a contribution to further the soccer interests of the African diaspora in the Caribbean, but which, it has also been alleged in ongoing investigations into soccer corruption, was a bribe to secure votes to stage the 2010 World Cup.

And, lo and behold, was it not the self-same Valcke who was the prominent go-between in the $10 million dollars being handed to Warner from the FIFA funds earmarked to South Africa as part of the payment to stage the World Cup?

Current criminal investigations by Swiss authorities against Blatter, who has already been suspended from all soccer activities for eight years by FIFA's Ethics Committee, are ongoing  and a USA State Department investigation has disclosed that two prominent South African officials handed Warner a bagful of money at a clandestine meeting in Paris.

But the pair have yet to be named and no South Africans have been directly indicted in what has emerged as the sorry and unsavoury fall from grace of Blatter, Valcke and Warner - and also cast a shadow over Beckenbauer.

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