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The Sad State of African Footballing Affairs
With corruption seemingly becoming more and more publicised within football, KingFut’s Robert Malit analyses how it is impacting African football, both on a continental and international scale.
On the 27th of May this year, the US Department of Justice began its quest to indict senior FIFA officials over financial malpractice. The fallout has ostensibly changed FIFA. Corruption had always been suspected of world’s football governing body from whence it first engaged a corporate partner. Yet it took so long to expose and act upon because the harm caused was tolerable. The same cannot be said of football in Africa.
Damage to football development in Africa, as a result of corruption, has a greater effect. This is expected in developing economies. Corruption has subverted the game in Africa in such a way that Pele’s prediction of an African World Cup winner not only failed but is also unlikely to ever come true.
When one conducts a surface assessment of African football everything would look fine. That is why to truly grasp the actual state of affairs the assessment a more extensive search must be conducted, beginning at the domestic football level. 1990 was a limelight year for the continent’s football thanks to Cameroon; it appeared to foreshadow a new era. Yet since then domestic league numbers in the stands dwindled. The young African footballer dribbling a ball made of bound polythene on a dusty surface still remains the most popular imagery of African football.
How has football remained in this dire state despite increased investment? FIFA alone gave each Federation atleast $2M from 2011 to 2014 according to Transparency International. Conducting an inquest as to how these funds were utilized would be a futile affair. There is little transparency and accountability from the respective federations. Hardly any of the governing bodies reveal their financial undertakings to the public in any reliable form.
The primary reason for this situation is that FIFA has created an atmosphere where its rules supersede those of any country’s constitution. The most recent high profile example is that of Nigeria. After Nigeria’s dismal World Cup in South Africa, the President Jonathan Goodluck decided to call the Nigerian Football Federation to task. FIFA quickly stepped in to warn of a suspension.”…political interference will be dealt with by FIFA…” responded Sepp Blatter. Conveniently forgetting that in Africa the government is usually among the biggest stakeholders. Repeatedly, this tag of war has gone on in Africa. Kenya did get a suspension in 2004 for investigating corruption in football administration.
These cohorts of FIFA enjoy their untouched status as they pocket money meant to uplift young people from poverty. Nigeria’s Amos Adamu was a member of FIFA’s executive committee prior to revelations of soliciting bribes. The same individual was at the forefront of diverting sponsorship into Nigerian football into his personal coffers. Reportedly, only 10% of Globacom’s $7M investment into Nigerian club football went to where it was intended. It’s no surprise then when the suspicious scenario of the Nigerian league in 2013 arises; where the league winner lost only three less than the bottom club.
Issa Hayatou, FIFA’s interim and CAF’s President, is yet another. Put aside Cameroon hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The man infamously changed CAF’s Presidency contesting rules, through a subservient delegacy, to be re-elected unopposed in 2013. Hayatou’s stake in the Corruption hall of fame, though, has been through questionable TV deals.
BBC Panorama claimed that he was paid 100,000 French Francs in the 1990s to influence awarding of World Cup TV rights to ISL. Under his tenure in 2011, a French company came in to broadcast African football matches. Sportfive, the company, had his son as vice-president.
Corruption is pervasive, so much so that alongside the early exits of African nations at the World Cup one expects embarrassing sagas of unpaid salaries. This of course is not confined to World Cup participants. On several occasions governments have to step in to pay players and overpay foreign coaches.
Evidently, the notion of money not being channeled into African football is a myth. There is a lot of investment but development is being deprived of resources by these character-types at the helm of African FAs. The African public must begin its quest to indict these criminals for without indictment, these criminals will still be allowed to drain the funds needed to nurture some of the most underrated footballing talents in the world.