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Politics, power behind the game

THIS Sunday in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh — right at the gateway of the Red Sea — something that sort of contradicts the breath-taking beauty, exclusivity and tranquillity of the place will be taking place.

By Enock Muchinjo

African football leaders, who include some of the most powerful men in the game, will be meeting to elect one of the seven continental representatives on world football’s most powerful body, the Fifa Council.

It is of course no child’s play for the five men vying for the post and, after months of intense canvassing, diplomacy and what have you — it will come down to a secret ballot of the 53-member Confederation of African Football (Caf) to decide the man to fill the vacancy on this rewarding and much desired position in international football politics.
Sunday’s special congress has been convened to replace former Ghana Football Association (GFA) president Kwesi Nyantakyi, who has been banned from football after being caught in a bribery scam.

Now, here is an interesting twist to Sunday’s vote in Egypt: South African football head Danny Jordaan, who is one of the five contenders, has been endorsed by the regional Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa), whose president is Zimbabwe’s Phillip Chiyangwa.

Cosafa’s executive committee resoundingly voted in favour of Jordaan, who defeated Malawian Walter Nyamilandu and Elvis Chetty of Seychelles.

But despite the vote outcome, and Cosafa declaring its support for a single candidate in Jordaan, both Nyamilandu and Chetty will on Sunday contest for the Fifa post anyway.

No statutes within the sport stop them from doing so. Nothing has been heard publicly from Chiyangwa and the Cosafa group about the two men’s move to go against the bloc’s resolution to back only Jordaan.

But behind the scenes, it is definitely something to infuriate both Chiyangwa and Jordaan — close allies and key players in the ouster of long-standing African football boss Issa Hayatou.

But they cannot always have it their way, especially where there are matters of vested interests and the right to personal choice.

Nyamilandu is 47 years old, a fairly young age in world football politics. He is not too keen on sacrificing his own personal ambitions, and he claims he has extensive support across the continent despite the Cosafa snub.

He has also said he will not seek re-election when his current term as head of Malawi’s football federation expires, having been at the helm for 14 years. As you can imagine, 14 years is a very long time to simply walk away and Nyamilandu quite obviously believes he has generated clout of his own, in that period, for him to put someone else’s higher aspirations ahead of his own.

It should raise a few eyebrows, when you think about it, that Nyamilandu and Chetty would not see it fit to extend their support to the more decorated Jordaan — chief executive of a successful World Cup — for a united front to give the southern region perhaps its best chance of landing the Fifa Council post.

But it really should not surprise us.

Away from the often hollow talk of national, regional and continental interest, the benefits that come with these football posts have historically had greater impact on the individuals than the constituencies they represent.

Certainly so under Sepp Blatter. A ride aboard the Fifa gravy train was one of the most fulfilling experiences in world sport.

Fifa, under a new administration, must be given a chance to serve the game transparently and with dignity.

As for Nyamilandu and Chetty, it is their right to run for the Fifa position on Sunday as much as it is for Jordaan, or the other two contestants.

Whoever wins, though, the absence of a common goal — as the one in Cosafa on the Fifa post — will not make the ordinary football-loving folk believe that things have changed and that whatever is being done is in the best interests of their favourite sport.

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