FIFA extraordinary congress wherein a new head of the football governing body will be elected is taking place in Zurich Switzerland on Feb 2016.
First things first, let me not assume that everybody is well versed about football issues. People chilling somewhere in underneath the sun somewhere, in an obscure part of the universe might not be even aware. Okay I’ll break it down for you “Who is this giant FIFA person, that everyone seems to be raving about and why should we give a toss about him/her?”
FIFA is the governing body of association football, futsal and beach football. This means that all football association across operate and function under laws and regulation as stipulated by this gigantic organization headquartered in the European city of Zurich. FIFA membership comprises of 209 national associations. Member countries must each also be members of one of the six regional confederations into which the world is divided: Africa, Asia, Europe, North & Central America and the Caribbean, Oceania and South America.
Therefore FIFA has the powers to punish and reward associations if they fall on the wrong side of the law, for instance government interference on football matters, and this may result in a particular association banned from participating in any official FIFA sanctioned tournament. FIFA can also reward associations by awarding rights to host major tournaments like the prestigious Men’s World Cup, and also provide bottomless football grants to aid in development to improve participation in football amongst marginalised countries.
FIFA is responsible for the organisation of football’s major international tournaments, notably the World Cup which commenced in 1930 and the Women’s World Cup which commenced in 1991.
For the first time in the history of world football there will be at least 5 approved candidates on the election ballot paper. See below list of candidates:
• Prince Ali Al Hussien (Jordan)
• Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain)
• Jerome Champagne (Nederland)
• Gianni Infantino ( Switzerland)
• Tokyo Sexwale ( South Africa)
The list has been wind down to five candidates after Liberian FA President Musa Bility did not pass the required integrity checks as outlined by the FIFA integrity committee. UEFA president Michel Platini did not make the final candidate list due to his on-going investigations into allegation of fraud, over a $2m payment received from FIFA for work done 9 years prior. With the dark cloud hovering around the case, Platini himself is not entirely out of the presidential race. If all charges against him are dropped, FIFA integrity committee would have no choice but to process his application and allow him back in the presidential battle.
Amidst the controversy around FIFA there had been widespread criticism directed towards the world football governing body to come out in public and be transparent on issues and processes followed by the integrity committee, in determining the suitability of an individual to run for the presidential office.
In a letter penned by the FIFA ad-hoc electoral committee chairman Domenico Scala to the Liberian FA president Musa Bility, amongst reasons given for not accepting his candidature are: a number of convictions and a numerous tax evasion related matters. Candidates may lodge an appeal against decisions of the ad-hoc electoral committee with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) based in the Swiss village of Lausanne.
Prior to FIFA Congress in May 2015, Musa Bility had expressed his intentions to challenge then FIFA president Sepp Blatter but was immediately cut down to size by CAF president whose also temporarily in charge of FIFA Issa Hayatou denouncing that his organization will not endorse his candidature.
Musa Bility seems to have stepped on the wrong football toes, instead of engaging through internal CAF protocols he went on to announce his ambitions to the media. It is widely known within football circles that both Musa Bility and Issa Hayatou do not see eye to eye. The outspoken Bility was said to be part of a faction led by former Ivory Coast FA President Jacques Anouma to oust Hayatou at the helm of African football during CAF’s General assembly Marrakech in 2013. Anouma did not succeed on his quest to become CAF president after policy change, which prevented him to challenge for the position. Billity is now experiencing the full might of power exerted by Hayatou, who’s literally in charge of world football as the interim FIFA head.
Over the past few week continental confederation have come out to announce, the candidate they’re backing for the top job.
UEFA had fired the first salvo announcing an unanimous support for their current General Secretary Gianna Infantino. As part of his key manifesto pillar Infantino has promised to increase the number of countries participating in the World Cup from 32 to 40. This surely is going to excite various marginalised in the past to fancy their chances of taking part in the coveted soccer tournament. The current UEFA administration boss is likely to pull out of the race, should Platini be successful in quest to clear his name. Platini has been suspended by the FIFA ethics committee on alleged fraud and dishonesty for 90 days from all football related activity. He’s currently in bum fight battle to have his suspension set aside to enable participation in the February presidential polls.
A little black cloud hanging over your head might just cause a bit of discomfort for Platini, the former French national team captain, on his journey to occupy the glass office at FIFA’s house.
The former FIFA General secretary Jerome Champagne has been on a very silent globetrotting campaign to be elected as FIFA head. Both Champagne and Infantino both represent UEFA, however the European confederation have come out with their intentions to back the latter. With his vast experience in football administration and fully understanding of FIFA processes and lobbying Champagne might emerge as a dark house in the race, after all he has backing of 5 associations who nominated him to occupy a position on the FIFA presidential election ballot paper.
Despite his poor human rights record Sheik Al Khalifa has been granted an opportunity to polish his image and show his abilities to turn around the already damaged FIFA brand. Al Khalifa is part of the Bahrain royal family, and has been involved in football since the early 1980’s having played professionally.
Sheikh Ibrahim Al Khalifa has promised to relinquish power, as opposed to Blatter’s tenure who had a tight grip on the organisation. Second key most important aspect for his election campaign is not to receive a salary from FIFA. Who needs few bobs whilst he’s got millions of dollars in his own family bank…?
Al Khalifa is set to go head to head with fellow Asian contender Prince Ali who lost the presidential battle against Sepp Blatter at the last FIFA congress held in May. With 35 votes available to the Asian Football, it will be very interesting to see which of the two formidable candidates they are throwing weight behind. A divided vote will render the confederation weak at the poll. A conversation need to be take place within the upper echelons of Asian FA, to choose one candidate and unify themselves to be a stronger bloc going into February 26 election.
Unfortunately CONMEBOL (South American FA) and our friends at CONCACAF (North America & Caribbean) have not pronounced on their candidates. We can all be certain that CONMEBOL is more likely to jump into bed with Europe to back Gianni Infantino for the top position. CONCACAF are to emerge as the real kingmakers throughout this battle. With 35 precious votes available to all candidates, we are likely to see jet setters ascending to the streets of North, Central & Caribbean doing intense lobbying for their preferred candidates. The presidential polls is set be won by the candidate who receives much support from CONCACAF, this can only be achieved on instances wherein CONCACAF votes as a bloc. The picture might change should individual FA’s decide to back their own preferred candidates.
A quick trip to the Northern end of the African lies the historical city of Cairo, Egypt (remember the bible stories huh, okay let’s not get too religious back to football). Egypt is known as a great tourist attraction and a getaway into Europe. Apart from being a popular tourism spot, city of Cairo has been the administrative centre of CAF since 2002. In the upcoming presidential elections the African continent has been billed a serious kingmaker and very influential of who will ultimately get to occupy the top office at FIFA House. With CAF not supporting Musa Bility, the only logical explanation now standing is “CAF is backing South African former Robben Island political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale. A man alleged to have purchased a personal island along the coast of Mozambique for a staggering R70m.
However CAF has not officially announced on a particular candidate on which it is betting on.
South African Football Association presidents Dr Danny Jordan came into the fore, to fully support and endorse Tokyo’s presidential ambitions.
Jordan said ““He’s been a chair of many boards and I think he has the credentials. He’s also been of Fifa committees for many years.”
Speaking at press conference in Johannesburg shortly before jetting out to Cairo to attend CAF executive committee, where he’s expected to outline his vision for football and garner more support Sexwale said “I think it was a vote of confidence by people who I can only say understand who I am and what I will be able to bring to football. FIFA, the organisation of the beautiful game, is damaged. The brand is severely undermined.”
But the look of things it seems, hes got all the ducks in a row it is just a matter of rubber stamping everything and tying loose ends. The race for the presidency will down to the real numbers/votes on that fateful day, we are likely to see a candidate winning the race with a mere 40 votes. The upcoming polls are billed as the tightest and difficult race ever witnessed.
Supposedly with all 54 CAF votes Sexwale is guaranteed to succeed outgoing Sepp Blatter. Really?, well not so fast. UEFA has the same number of votes as well, if they all vote for Infantino, this would result in a tie or draw. If the scenario occurs the acting FIFA President Issa Hayatou will cast the last vote to determine where the world football powers are to be based. In your wildest dream which side do you think Issa Hayatou will go, UEFA or CAF. Just to bust your bubble the above scenario of a tie, hasn’t ever happened before and it’s unlikely to occur now.
If I had the opportunity to give Mr Tokyo Sexwale my outmost heartfelt advice: I will say to him “NEVER PUT ALL YOUR EGGS UNDER ONE CAF BASKET” At the 53rd FIFA Congress held in May 2002, in Seoul South Korea just before the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The congress re-elected the incumbent president Sepp Blatter, who faced stiff competition from CAF President Issa Hayatou.
Going into the 2002 congress it was widely known and expected that all CAF associations will vote as a bloc, thus assuring Hayatou all 54 votes. However that was not the case, he was left at the altar by his own associations.
Sepp Blatter managed to get 139 of the 195 vote cast. Issa Hayatou was buttered, bruised and everything else in between. CAF failed to give full support to their president, and Hayatou was visibly embarrassed by the outcomes.
Coming back to Tokyo Sexwale getting an endorsement from CAF will somehow increase his chances, but relying solely on CAF is a serious grave mistake he can ever commit.
African football has been plagued by factionalism, between the North and South. The French (Francophone) speaking cabal versus the English (Anglophone) faction which is basically towards the southern tip of Africa. For years power at CAF has been centred and controlled by French cabal led by Issa Hayatou. African economic powerhouses like South Africa were always kept at bay and prevented to ascend to the upper echelons of football.
You’d expect a man of Dr Janny Jordan’s calibre to have had served on the FIFA executive committee for a number of years already, and it is a no brainer to have that thought. Fact of the matter is, a proven sport administrator like Jordan has never served on the powerful committee. To add salt to the wound new comer in the form of former International player and Zambian FA President Kalusha Bwalya overtook everyone for a seat with the powerful FIFA executive committee.
Now you’d ask yourself what does it takes for one to assume an executive role within FIFA. It goes without saying that all executive committee members’ serves at the behest of their continental federation president. In essence Issa Hayatou has the final say, and if you’re too independent or seen to be rocking the boat you’re unlikely to receive a nod.
I put my head on the block and safely say Sexwale don’t be fooled. A leopard doesn’t change its colour. CAF might appear to be backing your candidacy but deep down, I see you being left at the altar as well. Unfortunately the civilised world has made it clear that they don’t want to be led by an African or a muslim president.
And for the mere fact that Sexwale’s own South African government hasn’t come out in public to endorse his ambitions raises serious alarm bells.
FIFA like any other powerful organization political manuvering are the order of the day. Sexwale, is the Mangaung 2012 ghost coming back to life to bite you in the butt? In 2012 Tokyo Sexwale fell out of political favour after he was in a slate or faction that battled current ANC president Jacob Zuma, for the top position at the party’s congress held in Manguang, Free State. Subsequently he was axed from the Human Settlement ministry. Judging by this, Sexwale is now experiencing the same fate as Musa Bility.
Here we are talking about one of the powerful and influential position in the world, now if FIFA was a country I’d put it up there with the likes of US, China, Germany, Britain et al.
The responsibility of electing a FIFA president goes beyond the voting power of the 209 member associations; it also involves serious government lobbying. State presidents lobby for their preferred candidates to hold office in return of certain favours. For instance hosting prestigious tournaments like the world cup delivers big economic boost for any country.
With the current on-going FBI investigation into allegation of fraud and corruption within FIFA, they might have a back hand to determine who finally gets elected. The time has arrived for the Yanks to take control.
Imagine if Tokyo Sexwale was to be elected, this would in a split second put South Africa on a global spotlight. There’s self-marketing tool right there clear for everyone to see with our own naked eyes, therefore it is a no brainer that our government must jump on this wagon to support one of our own.
After all has been said and done whoever gets to be elected leader on February 26, has a mammoth task to restore confidence to an already shattered image of the world football governing body.