Words fail to de­scribe the cir­cus Fifa has be­come

CityPress - - Sport - S’Bu­siso Mse­leku sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Sbu_Mse­leku

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.

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