In the past week the world of football has been rocked by the indictments of several FIFA officials, by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the opening of investigations, by Swiss authorities into the bidding process that handed hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia respectively.
This brought to a boil the growing criticism of corruption, and embezzlement of funds that have been growing against FIFA in general and officials close to Sepp Blatter in particular, in the past few years.
Having faced down several challenges, of even CAF’s own Issa Hayatou, in his numerous re-elections, on the basis of solidly unwavering support from the Confederation of African Football, the man now steps down with corruption allegations cutting ever closer to him.
Sepp Blatter’s 17 year reign in FIFA has seen the organisation invest far more time, money and attention to the sport in Africa, than any other global sports organisation that I can think of.
On the one hand there have been the grassroots football projects, the emphasis on equity on distribution of development funds, and decision making and the bringing of the FIFA World Cup to South Africa in 2010
On the other hand of FIFA has loomed large over the internal strife that has undermined soccer’s growth in the country. It has intervened to block corruption investigations against senior football officials, using suspension of nations such as Kenya, and Uganda and Cameroon in the recent past.
In Kenya in particular, there was the peculiar case of FIFA attempting to shepherd the handing over the management of the game to now defunct Football Kenya Limited, in spite of its own regulations regarding who is the legitimate representative of football administration in a given country.
Perversely, it is these same African federations, who now hint at outside forces and even claims of imperialism at work, now that Sepp Blatter has been forced aside primarily through the lobbying of Western European football associations.
With Sepp Blatter now stepping out of the headship of FIFA, and a new election impeding, what becomes of the relationship of FIFA with its (notoriously corrupt) African members? The 1 one nation, 1 votes system, which made FIFA, one of the more egalitarian governing bodies around, was also the very system most targeted for abuse through bribery of officials.
Perhaps it will be modified, if not out rightly scrapped. This would serve only to push out the marginal voices, that previously had a say in FIFA’s affairs, and give credence to the ‘imperialism’ claims of some of the disaffected organisations who supported Blatter right to the end.
On the flip side what will FIFA’s stance on government investigation of its officials look like under a new president? I mean if they allow the ongoing FBI and Swiss investigations to run their course, and then turn around and suspend say…Nigeria because its government is investigating FIFA officials for corruption, then what will that look like?
How will FIFA’s next President balance keeping FIFA’s universality, in light of the need to purge the organisation’s corruption. That I feel is the most pressing question regarding the futuire of football in Africa.