After reporter Anas’ report on dodgy deals brought down the leadership of the Ghana Football Association in June, everyone who spoke to The Africa Report was unanimous in saying that graft is hurting the game
YesThe abuse of authority at any level of governance has hindered the development of the sport in Africa. Countless players are denied the chance to represent their countries because an official has a certain player preference or a coach has connived with an agent to preselect a team. The result is shambolic performances and pitiable technical development. Money, donations of equipment and false promises directed at football stakeholders and offerings of other gifts have thrust football power into the hands of people whose interests lie far from advancing the game. This has resulted in the stagnation of various projects. Grassroots and youth investment has suffered; and poor workmanship on infrastructure has left leagues with a very sad state of playing fields. It is not uncommon to find stadiums and technical centres that are incomplete, derelict, without reinvestment and unsafe because resources for these programmes have had to be shared between contractors and officials who want to withhold ‘something’ for their luxury lifestyles. That poor state is evident across the continent in the kind of playing fields and turfs that characterise even the top divisions. The impact of this is discernible from the position the continent occupies in global football development. Yet, elsewhere, African talents rule the world’s top leagues.
Yes, butAs bad as the evidence has been, corruption is not a problem for Africa alone. African football doesn’t have a corruption problem, football does. We have seen numerous occurrences of corruption in FIFA. It is institutional, not isolated to Africa. Africa has so much unrealised football potential. Unfortunately, the venality of some officials has stagnated the continent. We are yet to see an African team progress to the semi-final stage of a World Cup. George Weah is the first and only African player to win a Ballon d’or. Since then, we haven’t seen an African player feature in the three-man shortlist. I don’t believe there hasn’t been a player good enough in over two decades. In the wake of the Anas investigations into corruption – which has seen the dissolution of the Ghanaian Football Association – the reaction from the public was that of expectation, as opposed to shock. That, in itself, tells a story. This is the norm. Personal gain is too often given more importance than continental progression. As a continent with a proud heritage, Africa must be its own barometer of morality. There must be a public abhorrence to corrupt practices. We have seen how effective the Time’s Up and #metoo movements have been. It will take a collective effort to effect real change and hold those who abuse their positions accountable.
ERICK MWANZA Club licensing manager, Football Association of Zambia & CAF Media Manager