TO FIFA, an organisation that itself is not accountable to anybody — an institute that detests accountability and transparency — what the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) had done in Zimbabwe last month, asking the world football governing body to remove the country’s federation from office on charges of misconduct, is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theatre.
By Enock Muchinjo
You see, nobody wants inquisitiveness at Fifa and if you think the culture of turning a blind eye to delinquency was going to go with the regime of Sepp Blatter, think again.
Going through Fifa’s response to the SRC’s call for stern action against Zifa, what strikes you is the careful wording of the statement, and the selective interpretation of the global football body’s constitution with regards to the operations of member countries and the manner and extent they should be held accountable by authorities at home.
The response, tellingly, is also of typical arrogance and, in fact, a direct, chilling threat: touch Zifa and we ban your little country.
To those of us that have tried to delve deeper into how the global football body functions, it does not surprise us at all though.
As long as there is no serious threat on the grip on power of those occupying office in Zurich, as long as they still have control of the billions of dollars flowing in and out of the sport, Fifa historically is notoriously unwilling to go the extra mile to tackle the scourge of corruption and abuse of funds in member countries.
Let us face it, Fifa is a very rich organisation. Funds that are abused by corrupt officials in the member countries across the world, compared to the vast amounts of money controlled in Zurich, are, quite frankly, a drop in the ocean.
It seems its unwanted burden at the Fifa headquarters to keep errant officials across the world under check, lest it draws attention to the deeper dodgy dealings in world football’s highest echelons.
I recall conversations I used to enjoy with one very senior acquaintance who has covered world football for many years.
The jolly old chap would chuckle heartily when speaking of how under previous Fifa administrations, football officials accused of this and that in their respective countries would get away with only a slap on the wrist behind closed doors, at worst a telling-off not to get caught again, all in a manner — in the words of my esteemed friend — similar to a naughty child being sent to bed early.
Football, indeed like all major sports on the planet, is captured by besuited bureaucrats who insist on an autocratic governance style that protects the inner circles and their hangers-on.
World sport is generally at the mercy of these pseudo-administrators whose interest is, primarily, not to chase after the bad guys — the bad guys are part of the merry-gangs which keep the cartel in power and they get well-fed with the crumbs.
Remember Zimbabwe’s Asiagate scandal of a decade ago, which this newspaper played a crucial role in exposing, and how Fifa was never reluctant to probe further?
Asiagate eventually collapsed before our eyes due to lack of criminating evidence. But one can only imagine the extent of the dirt that would have been laid bare had Fifa cared to dig deeper, considering the heavy involvement with Zimbabwe of notorious and convicted Singaporean match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.
If you want Fifa to act, it seems quite clearly now that you need to force its hand.
Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Anas did exactly that when he secretly filmed his country’s football association boss Kwesi Nyantakyi taking a US$65 000 bribe from an undercover reporter pretending to be a businessman.
What a way to kick out the bad guys of world sport without facing ludicrous threats of bans from such organisations as Fifa and like-minded ones.