Welcome to 2015! A happy new year to all the readers of this column.
As the world enters into 2015, I have set for myself one goal, a resolution of some sort – to join forces with whoever loves the game of football to stop Sepp Blatter from returning as President of FIFA when the next elections hold this year!
I just do not understand it.
The sit-down syndrome in any organised setting is anathema to good governance, and is denounced globally for its penchant to turn even good leaders into power-drunk dictators.
The history of the world is littered with the story of several of such political leaders. Their end usually is a sad story of abuse of power, corruption, internal strife and conflicts, controversy and the death of true democratic principles!
As the race for the Presidency of FIFA begins, the worst news to come out of Zurich is that Mr. Blatter has not only indicated he would be running again but that no one within the Executive Committee is actually challenging him despite the mountains of scandals and controversies that hang around the neck of the organization and now threaten the integrity of the greatest game in the world!
Whereas I do not intend to go into the details of the ugly scandals and charges that have rocked FIFA since Blatter became its President in 1998, and have claimed several high profile victims within the football family through the years (Jack Warner, Mohammed Bin Hamman, Lennart Johannson, Farra Ado, and so on), the mere fact that Blatter promised that he would not be re-contesting again after the 2011 elections makes his recent announcement very annoying. The man is making a mockery of the rest of the world. The man’s word cannot be trusted. It is just ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing’. Mr. Sepp Blatter started his career in FIFA in 1975. That means that he has been part of the organization for 40 years! He has spent the last 16 as its President. By next year he will be 80 years old!
In a period in history when the world is preparing to send young men to the red planet, and planes that will cross the Atlantic in one hour are being designed, what is the new innovation a geriatric is bringing to the world’s greatest sport? What did Mr. Blatter forget to do in the past 40 years that he has been part of the organization, that he now wants to introduce at the twilight of his life? What is he afraid of in a new leadership? Or better still, what is he hiding from the world that he thinks will remain hidden forever?
Only Jerome Champagne, a former General-Secretary of FIFA, has summoned the courage to do what is obviously desirable and needed now for the advancement of world football – enter the race, end the Sepp Blatter reign, and usher in something new, and something refreshing to take football to the next level.
It is truly disheartening, shocking and disappointing that despite the numerous monumental scandals that have rocked the world body through the years, and the baggage of charges that Blatter has had to carry and parry with impunity, and presently and menacingly threaten the integrity of the game of football, the man still has the guts to eat his own words and announce to the world that he would be contesting again!
The great tragedy is not that he wants to run, but that he might likely win again if he does, whilst the rest of the world is watching and keeping silent!
What hold does Mr. Blatter have over the other members of the Executive Committee of FIFA that makes them cower in the face of his arrogance?
Recall how Bin Hamman withdrew from the race in 2011.Also recall how Issa Hayatou, threatened by the IOC for allegations of corruption, bowed to pressure and withdrew also.
In the 2011 elections, Mr. Blatter was returned unopposed as President because there was no ‘clean’ person within the organization to challenge him. The same scenario appears to be is playing out again in 2015.
For example, why did Michel Platini, tipped by many after 2011 to be his likely successor, withdraw his candidacy from the race as soon as Blatter indicated interest to return?
It is really shameful and unacceptable that the man under whose watch some of the most atrocious corruption charges have been levied, remains uninvestigated and untouchable atop the organization.
Even the most recent controversy about the bribery allegations surrounding the 2022 World Cup and the Garcia report that was mangled to protect some interests within the organisation, are being swept under the carpet.
Mr. Sepp Blatter has become too powerful for comfort. Unless and until he leaves the organization, FIFA and its activities will continue to remain shrouded in the murk of scandals. It is amazing that with the developments following Garcia’s report, protest and resignation, the FIFA President did not step aside to allow for an independent inquest to protect the integrity of football and of FIFA! Instead, he is contemptuously going ahead with his plans to perpetuate himself in power.
Guilty of all these charges or not, Sepp Blatter has had his time, served football well, but must now go!
If he does not do so voluntarily and with dignity, he should be stopped by all means and all costs from contesting the 2015 elections, period! The world has had enough of the shenanigans!
Meanwhile, the bad news is that he has kick-started his campaign!
His foot soldiers are already knocking on the doors of the most vulnerable of his supporters, the impoverished army of African football federation presidents! They are, as usual, being tempted with offers of membership of committees and subcommittees to vote for him.
Let me remind Africa that this is the man that disrespected the continent’s greatest hero, Nelson Mandela, last year. One day after Mandela died, during a FIFA event for the 2014 World Cup, Mr. Blatter rudely interrupted a one-minute silence called for Mandela after only 11 seconds! It was preposterous. So infuriated were some people that they vowed to do everything to stop him from returning as FIFA President, should he dare to run again in 2015.
That time has come. All of Africa must rise up now and say no to Blatter!
FIFA belongs to the entire football family of the world. It is not and must not become the private estate of any one person or cabal.
Since Sepp Blatter, has the temerity to seek to perpetuate himself in office, we the people also have the audacity to say no to another four years of his dictatorship!
That’s precisely why he must be stopped! Now!
The Glo-CAF Awards
In a few days, Africa will be celebrating the crème of its best players at the Glo-CAF awards taking place in Lagos, Nigeria.
The African Footballer of the Year 2014 is to be picked from a list of three – Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon, and Yaya Toure of Cote D’Ivoire.
Vincent was magnificent during the first half of 2014. Towards the end, the disappointing performance of the Super Eagles and the fact that goalkeepers are usually not favourites to win the award in a year that there are alternative outstanding field players, are the odds which are heavy against his winning it.
Aubameyang is a Gabonese. His national team did not impact much in the continent in the year even though he personally has been doing well in Europe, playing regularly and scoring great goals for one of Bundesliga’s two best teams.
But it is Yaya Toure that holds the ace once again. For the fourth year running, he brings to the table the best credentials – winning the Premiership with Manchester City FC, and qualifying and taking part in the World Cup in Brazil with Cote D’Ivoire last summer. As an individual, he has been truly outstanding both for his country and his club. That Manchester City FC were BPL champions last season and are neck-and neck with Chelsea FC into 2015, is to a large extent due to the impact of Yaya. It will be a shock if he fails to clinch the award this time again.
Ballon D’or 2014
The global award for the World Best Player of 2014, the Ballon D’or, will also soon hold.
Although three players are listed, the final choice is down to either of the two players that have dominated world football this past decade. Between them they have won the award five times!
Manuel Neuer is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world presently, considering his enviable record throughout the World Cup and since then for Bayern Munich in the German league! But Neuer may not win it. Goalkeepers can win only if the best and most gifted field players at a particular period are not playing particularly well. That is not the case now.
Between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, once again, a difficult choice has to be made.
For me, in 2014, Messi, even with his subdued performance during the World Cup was the undisputed best player in the world. Yet at the World Cup, he left the impression in the minds of most persons that he did not apply himself as fully as he does every time he dons the shirt of Barcelona.
Last year, with Messi down with injury for a spell during the season, Ronaldo worked very hard at his game and added the edge he needed to catch up with Messi and possibly wrest the award of the World’s Best Player from him.
This season both of them are playing some magnificent football, scoring goals as if goals are in short supply and breaking records.
Messi still looks slightly short of his best form ever, whilst Ronaldo has never been this sharp in front of goal.
I will not be surprised therefore if Ronaldo joins Messi and wins his third global award this January!