I am still trying to catch my breath. In the past two weeks, keeping pace with the happenings around the world of football has left me in a daze.The wind of change blowing across global football has become a whirlwind with no one sure about what would be left as debris when the storm finally subsides!
But thank God for FC Barcelona! The gloom of the shady activities of racketeers within the FIFA leadership was temporarily lifted last weekend, when an estimated 400 million global audience of television viewers participated in celebrating football outside the decadence in its administration. When Juventus FC and FC Barcelona lined up in Berlin for the finals of the UEFA Champions league, all the fear and apprehension of what would happen to football in the absence of Sepp Blatter evaporated into thin air like a whiff of smoke.
Shockingly, in the absence of Sepp Blatter, the most ‘important’ and ‘powerful’ man in world football, nothing happened to football! The world did not end. Football did not disintegrate. The sky has since remained blue. The game, and indeed the world, had just trudged on as if Blatter never existed! No one missed Blatter’s face before, during and after the ‘war’ in Berlin. Indeed it was such a successful climax to a great season of European football that it completely demystified and laid bare and barren the myths that had sustained FIFA and its leadership as a cesspool of corruption.
Extraditions, investigations, arrests and resignations, issues once considered a taboo within FIFA, have now taken over the affairs of the richest sports organization in the world. Debunked are the powers of infallibility, unaccountability, impunity and omnipotence that FIFA conferred on itself giving birth to a leadership that had absolute power over even sovereign states whose football associations are affiliated to FIFA! The fear of FIFA is the beginning of wisdom, until the USA authorities came to the world’s rescue these past three weeks!
For some hours before, during and after the UEFA Champions league finals, the shenanigans of FIFA were temporarily set aside so that football could restore the confidence of its 4 billion followers in the game, that some things may be very wrong with football administrators, but definitely, everything is right with the game itself. It was amply demonstrated by Pogba, Teves, Pirlo, Buffon, Neymar, Suarez, Pique, Messi and all the others who put up a champagne performance last weekend to mark the end of football administration the Sepp Blatter-way!
Surely Sepp Blatter will soon become a part of the history of FIFA, along with several others in the cabal that has ruled and ruined football administration globally for decades. The searchlight must now turn towards the confederations, those of South America, Asia and particularly, of Africa.
I advise strongly that CAF not be investigated! Indeed, I warn that the entire CAF Executive Committee created and nurtured by Issa Hayatou, the current 69 year old CAF President who has recently caused to be amended the statutes of CAF in order to enable him contest again and add another 5 years to his 27 years overstay as its helm next year, not be investigated.To do so is to reveal what would make the earth-shaking revelations about FIFA look like a page from a kindergarten book!
CAF, the Confederation of African Football, is a hopeless case, beyond redemption. CAF’s case would make the world to apologise to Sepp Blatter for using the word ‘corruption’ to describe the activities of FIFA in the same planet where CAF and CONCACAF exist!
So, the best thing would be for Africa to beg Issa Hayatou, to plead with him, to passionately appeal to him, to voluntarily retire from the administration of football in Africa and offer him the amnesty of ‘No probe’. He must also be implored, as he leaves CAF, to take along with him all his friends, family members and cronies in the Executive Committee of CAF where once-indicted and suspended corrupt officials are celebrated, re-absorbed, recycled, and re-installed back into administration with blatant impunity.
African football administration requires complete fumigation! And it must start with the immediate end to Hayatou’s reign. It is clear now that longevity at the leadership of any organization breeds corruption. It makes little gods of ordinary mortals, and blinds them to transparency, accountability and integrity. Term limits for Presidents must be introduced into the statutes of every football association, confederation and even FIFA. No President must serve must than one, or at most two terms! This must be the first item on the list of reforms.
The ongoing FIFA saga is a great blessing to football. It is the darkness just before dawn. The world, led by the USA, must not loosen its grip, for to do so, is to miss this golden opportunity to cleanse football administration around the world. We must seize the present momentum to give football back to the real stakeholders – the players, the coaches, the fans, and the clubs!
Meanwhile, I am still celebrating the finals of the 2015 UEFA champions league last week that displayed unparalleled entertainment that continues to make ‘the beautiful game’ the most followed social event in the world.
The ‘Arrogance’ of Garba Manu!
I took particular interest to follow the World Youth Championship because of Manu Garba, the coach of Nigeria’s under-20 national team. He had nurtured a strong team for a few years. Having won at Under-17 level and kept the bulk of the team, it was understandable he felt confident that the team would do well and possibly win the Youth Championship for the first time in Nigeria’s history.
On the eve of the championship, I was shocked to read Garba declare that for him it was either the trophy or nothing! At every media opportunity, he maintained that nothing and no team would stop him from winning the championship!
That’s why I had to pay particular interest. There must be something the coach knew that the rest of us did not. Even if he had, for an unpredictable game where anything can happen to change the course of a match, experienced coaches are always modest in words before a competition.
The Flying Eagles, brimming with infectious confidence, definitely disrespected the oppositions despite the fact that they were in the same group with two of the best football playing countries in the world.
As it now turns out they played decently, were a bit unlucky, but were humbled first by Brazil and, a few days ago, by Germany. The difference between the teams is that, the opponents shot and spoke less with their mouths and more with their boots. Garba must have been taught one or two lessons in humility and respect for opponents in football, where to win requires the combination of several elements most of which are outside the control of a coach.
Now that the team is out of the championship and heading back home, I cannot wait to hear what Manu Garba has to say now! Since his promise at the start was ‘the trophy or nothing’ I think he should keep any words of explanation to himself and head back to where he came from with ‘Nothing’ also!
Samson Akiga Rests!
About three weeks ago we were together in Abuja discussing the future and what roles we would play in the new socio-political dispensation in Nigeria. He actually saw me off as I headed for the airport and we planned to meet again in less than a week.
Three days after that, a text message sent by a mutual friend,announced that two days after my departure,Samson had slumped and died. He was my childhood friend since our primary school days in Jos, where I grew up with the entire Akiga clan, a family of renowned sports men and women.
Samson Akiga exceled in sports in school and went on to become a first class sports administrator. He managed the famous BCC Lions FC of Gboko at the height of the club’s achievements in Nigeria and was a prominent figure in the struggle to install respect, professionalism and integrity in Nigerian football administration. He was a grassroots politician and contributed significantly to the politics of Benue State.
Beyond all that, we were very close friends spending a lot of time together every time we met and planning for a future we had no control over.
When death came calling three weeks ago, he was not prepared for it, as he still had a lot he was planning to contribute to Nigeria’s emerging political landscape. I console with his family and friends as he is laid to rest this weekend in his village in Sai, Benue State, and pray that the Lord will give his wife and children the fortitude to bear his loss! Adieu Samson!