Who will bell the Fifa fat cat?
One of my favourite childhood stories was a piece titled “Who will bell the cat?”
This old fable was about a community of mice who were planning a ball. This was until the owner of the house decided to get a cat as a pet. This meant the rodents could no longer prance around at will, as any that strayed found themselves becoming a delicious meal for the
It caused such havoc that the mice decided to hold a meeting to discuss how to deal with the newcomer who had spoilt their fun.
During the deliberations, one young bright spark came up with this brilliant idea: “Why don’t we just put a bell around the cat’s neck so that we can all hear it from a distance when it approaches?”
This suggestion led to huge celebrations. There was ululation all around and the unbridled joy was followed by mountains of food and an overflow of celebratory drinks.
While the festivities continued, an old grey mouse sat quietly in a corner and did not partake in the conviviality.
On being asked, the old geezer responded: “I see you are all excited, but I have nothing to enthuse about. As I sit here musing, I am asking myself who will bell the cat? Can a mouse really get that close to a cat that it can put a bell around its neck without being eaten?” Spoilsport! This brought an end to all the celebrations as reality hit home.
You may ask what the relevance of this anecdote is in a sports column.
I thought of the story as I cogitated about the upcoming Fifa presidential elections.
You see, for the first time, South Africa has a huge interest in these polls given that one of their own, businessman Tokyo Sexwale, is one of the contenders for the position of world football’s il Capo di tuti capi (boss of all bosses).
However, there is just a slight snag. Who will cast the vote for Safa come Friday? And who will the vote go to? Once upon a time, there were the Three Musketeers of South African football: the doctors (much as these are honorary doctorates, known as honoris causa, or “a degree awarded without examination” in learned circles) Molefi Oliphant, Danny Jordaan and Irvin Khoza.
From the early 2000s, the trio criss-crossed the globe seeking the right for South Africa to host the lucrative Fifa World Cup, continuing to do so after the failed bid for the 2006 tournament until they finally secured the rights for the 2010 shindig in May 2004. Such was the sterling job they did that Safa decided in July 2004 to pay them bonuses of R7 million each.
Then CEO Albert Mokoena was at pains to explain where the money would come from.
“The money won’t come from either the sponsors or Fifa (the international soccer body), but from Safa’s own coffers. The bonuses will be paid if and when money is available,” he told the inquisitive hacks at the time.
Between then and until very recently, the trio have made an endless succession of trips to Zurich.
It became a common response when the media tried to get hold of any of them to be told that “he is in Zurich”.
That was until that fateful May 27 morning last year when seven Fifa officials were arrested just before the start of the 65th Fifa congress by the FBI and Swiss law enforcement officers.
The FBI mentioned South Africa in its indictment as the country that paid a $10 million bribe to secure the rights to host the 2010 World Cup.
The trips to Zurich have since petered out.
Hence my pondering on who will cast the vote on behalf of Safa on Friday.
Also, it would be interesting to see whether Safa will abide by the Confederation of African Football’s endorsement of Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa and desert their own in Mr Sexwale, given that the local body’s president, Dr Jordaan, is African confederation president Issa Hayatou’s personal adviser.
Quite interesting, one must say!