TWOREPORT'S contributors - Staff Reporter
Blatter Resigns, But is Africa Ready to Forge A New Frontier?
Following Sepp Blatter’s announcement to step down as FIFA president on Tuesday, the fallout continues to reverberate across the global spectrum of football and beyond. The world watches with pensive interest to see what is next for football’s landlord.
With his decision, as well as his remarks, Blatter has undoubtedly set into motion a chain reaction across the football world. Mr. Blatter, who will remain in his position until the election of his successor, hinted at the introduction and implementation of “fundamental and structural” reforms.
Such reforms include:
1. A reduction in the size of FIFA Executive Committee;
2. Term limits for all members of the Executive Committee;
3. Election of representatives of Confederations to the Executive Committee through Congress;
4. Integrity check for all Executive Committee members organized centrally through FIFA and not through the Confederations.
The probable question will then be: what does Blatter’s decision mean for Africa and Asia? And how will Blatter’s decision impact on the role both continents should continue to play on the global football field?
Field of Equity
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) are two of football’s power blocs and offered their votes for the re-election of Sepp Blatter. They were arguably justified to have thrown their weight behind the Swiss, who, like his predecessor, had brought both blocs into significant participation on the global stage.
“What Blatter pushes is equity, fairness and equality among the nations,” president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick said in an interview with the BBC on Thursday before the election. He further stated: “we don’t want to experiment.” The clearest indications of the massive support base Africa had set up for Mr. Blatter.
The African bloc had for the first time in FIFA World Cup™ history and through its representative, South Africa, hosted the mundial in 2010. The Asian bloc had its first right to the World Cup with a successful joint bid from South Korea and Japan in 2002. Qatar, though controversially, will be the first Middle East nation on the Asian watch to host the tournament in 2022.
Africa under Mr. Blatter has seen a tremendous increase in developmental funding through the FIFA Goal Development Project and the Football Assistance Program. Member-federations of the continent’s governing organization CAF, have received funding between $1.8 million and $2.1 million from 2010 to 2014. Pitches, federation head offices, technical centres, special officials development training are significant contributions made to the growth of football by FIFA on the continent.
Recipient, not Contributor
Quite frankly, perhaps Africa as a beneficiary of these programs may have compromised her position as a power bloc in FIFA. It does not wield a similar measure of influence as does its European counterpart, UEFA. Though, this perception may be considered invalid given the overwhelming support member countries of CAF had thrown behind Blatter. However, this can be looked at as an isolated value relation as Africa’s sway in the real sense of global football politics will surely come under scrutiny.
If Africa will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Europe, then it must re-image itself on pragmatism and institutional diplomacy. Africa cannot – and honestly, should not – continue to remain a bloc player in a trade by barter relationship with the hierarchy of FIFA, but should define its role on the heels of a reform agenda that should cause a shift in approach and in political power play with the rest of the world on the football meeting table.
A CAF of Imperious Impunity
Issa Hayatou has led the CAF (Confederation of African Football) since 1988 and in a somewhat reciprocal gesture, has enjoyed the support of Sepp Blatter. This has got to change if Africa must catch on with the emerging thinking that will follow up from the structural changes to be introduced by the outgoing president, Sepp Blatter.
He had said in his remark while announcing his resignation: “Since I shall not be a candidate, and am therefore now free from the constraints that elections inevitably impose, I shall be able to focus on driving far-reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts.” Fundamental reforms such as term limits would sound like a welcome package that should trickle down to the confederations.
CAF needs a new direction; the organization requires re-invention if it is to have a competitive re-emergence among the football comity of nations. Such re-invention must clearly stem from a change of guard at the top. A new CAF must be ready to forge a new frontier without Hayatou at the helm. Africa needs to be an even partner in negotiating its role in the agenda to be driven for a ‘new’ FIFA in the sports world.