It is Africa’s time to lead
Fifa presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale says the continent must stand and be counted
Fifa presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale has said Africa will be the loser if he fails to be elected in February to head up football’s world governing body. Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) in Sandton yesterday, Sexwale said the fact that, for the past 110 years, Fifa had not been led by an African was a record it needed to rid itself of. He said African countries had to stand and be counted if they were to be taken seriously.
Four of the five candidates – Sexwale, Jérôme Champagne, Gianni Infantino and Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa graced the gathering yesterday while Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein sent his representative. The prince addressed the meeting via a video link. All were united in saying that Fifa needed to transform and agreed that something needed to be done to restore the credibility of the organisation. Sexwale said it was Africa’s time to lead. “I won’t fail, but Africa would have failed if I don’t make it,” said Sexwale. “For 110 years, Africa has been on the bench, warming it, and now it is about time. The time for diversity has arrived and it is Africa’s time. It is not about race – because my credentials on nonracialism are well documented – it is about showing that Fifa is for everyone and not just for certain people.
“The ‘i’ in Fifa is for international – unless if people want to replace it with the ‘c’ for continental.”
Sexwale said African football was suffering, as it was treated in the way developing countries were treated in the economic field.
“Football is not broken, but heartbroken. We are bleeding, as most of the people [Fifa officials charged with corruption] are either on the run or arrested, and we feel for all of them. As a democrat, I hope they are all innocent. The brand is damaged and has to be changed,” said Sexwale. He said Fifa needed to be democratised. “People who choose the leadership must feel the ownership and control of the organisation. There has to be transparency in decision making and finances.”
He said he was happy with how his campaign had gone and was at peace with himself. “It is different from campaigning for the country, because here, no matter how many millions the country has, only one person will vote. You have to travel to most of the countries and meet relevant people, but I am happy.”
Champagne said Fifa needed rebuilding to restore its credibility. He believed he was the right candidate based on his experience of having worked for the organisation for 11 years.
“We need to retie the knot between the fans, players and the leadership. I served Fifa and I know exactly what needs to be done,” said Champagne.
Union of European Football Associations (Uefa) general secretary Infantino, who had to leave to catch a flight to Japan, said there was a need to restore the credibility and image of Fifa, and the trust of the people in Fifa as an organisation.
“In order to do this we have to implement the reforms we were speaking about. We have to bring full financial transparency into Fifa,” he said.
“We have to know how the money comes in and where the money goes. All the money flows have to be clearly identified and published in a transparent and public way. We need to introduce clean governance in Fifa.”
Infantino added that he did not see himself “at all as a Uefa candidate”. He said: “I have the backing of Uefa, certainly, but I am not a Uefa candidate. I am a candidate for football. That’s the way I have lived all my life and that’s the way I see Fifa in the future.
“It’s an advantage to have the backing of the European associations going forward, but it is important that they understand as well, the Europeans, that they have to be part of a global game with Fifa.”
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