Words fail to describe the circus Fifa has become
The first time I walked into a newsroom as an excited and impressionable young man, a subeditor asked what made me think I could be a journalist. No words came out of my mouth. “You see,” he said in very measured tones, “to be a good journalist, you must first be sure that you are a wordsmith.”
Over the years, I have observed how creatively writers make even the blandest of words sing.
But the events that have transpired at global soccer administrative body Fifa in recent months make even the best of wordsmiths struggle for appropriate adjectives to describe them.
Even the most dedicated, dyed-inthe-wool Fifa supporters will scratch their heads in a battle to come up with any exaggerated or hyperbolic description of the circus their beloved organisation has become.
Just when we thought things were calming down, Fifa secretarygeneral Jérôme Valcke was handed a further 45-day suspension by the independent investigatory chamber of the ethics committee, with a further recommendation that he be banned for nine years.
This was at the conclusion of a probe into Valcke’s behaviour.
The SG was suspended on October 8 after allegations were levelled against him, including his violation of the general rules of conduct, conflicts of interest and offering and accepting gifts and other benefits.
Most seriously, he was accused of collusion in the illegal sale of 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup tickets at inflated prices.
This week too, Michel Platini, the president of Europe’s football governing body Uefa, who has been slapped with an eight-year ban from all football activities, capitulated, saying he would no longer fight the ban as he did not “have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates”.
This was a reference to the five men whose names are in the hat for Fifa presidential elections, scheduled for February 26.
Platini’s withdrawal leaves the five contenders to fight it out for the presidency. They are South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, Jérôme Champagne of France and Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino.
Platini said with some finality: “I’m withdrawing from the race for the Fifa presidency. The timing is not good for me. I don’t have the means to fight on equal terms with the other candidates. I have not been given the chance to play the game. Bye-bye, Fifa. Bye-bye, Fifa presidency.”
Some of the runners might view Platini’s withdrawal from the race as making things easier for them, given that he was the initial favourite to replace the disgraced Sepp Blatter.
However, the flipside is that all the shenanigans that are going on within Fifa are threatening to leave whoever takes over as president with a shell of an organisation.
The scandals that have tarnished Fifa over a period might end up having a serious impact and effect on sponsorship, which is the lifeblood of the organisation.
While the sheikh said this week that, if he won, he would not want to adopt Blatter’s style of executive president, the new incumbent might be forced to be more handson to get things back on course.
There might just be too much on the plate for the president to run the organisation remotely.
So the Bahraini’s promise that he “shall be a nonexecutive president who supervises a new top-class management team but leads by example and not by micromanaging every aspect of the organisation” might prove not to be practical.
The candidates must be praying that no further skeletons tumble out of the Fifa cupboard before February 26.