Tomorrow is the deadline set by FIFA for all nomination papers to be duly filed for whoever wants to be President of the body, in elections holding on 26 February next year.
There has been frenzy, but none like what anyone envisaged. Many, including yours truly felt that, with the big axe having been landed on the heavyweights like Platini, Cheung, Valcke and Sepp Blatter, many people will spring out of the woodwork laying claim to be the messiah that world football needs, to sort itself out.
People did come out, talked, made all sorts of claims and calls on FIFA to clean up, but very few actually seem to want the job.
Brings one to wonder: who really wants to head FIFA at this time? Or shall I say, who has the courage to openly declare that he is eligible and ‘clean enough’ to step in? Looks like many potentials are running scared of the possibility of dirt being dug up on them, and hence decided to stay out of it.
So, we are still left with Michel Platini (who somehow, within his suspension, managed to file his nomination papers), Prince Ali bin al-Hussein (who was supported by Europe for the May election but has since said many negative things about the UEFA and Platini who backed him, hence is out of favour with UEFA’s strong backing), Jerome Champagne (former FIFA Director who could not get the 5 nominations needed for the May election, but seems to have scaled that hurdle now) and Trinidadian ex-player David Nakhid.
In Africa, we have four possible candidates – Musa Bility from Liberia, Nigerian duo of Orji Uzo Kalu and ex-player Segun Odegbami, and hours ago, Tokyo Sexwale, a South African former anti-apartheid activist who shot to fame making the world aware that he shared prison premises with the late Nelson Mandela announced that he will be contesting.
So far, there is no report of any of the four having garnered the initial 5 nominations required by FIFA to be eligible candidates.
Africa is a key battleground in this FIFA race. Everyone knows the huge influence wielded by the current CAF President, who is also interim FIFA President Issa Hayatou. And it is an open secret that when he does make his views known as to what direction he would rather see Africa follow, there is close to 100% support for his views.
This time it may be a bit different, as Hayatou is now leader of the world – he is President of FIFA and would not want to be seen to be partisan. I am sure that he will ask his ‘subjects’ in Africa to go vote with their consciences, but I know many will try and dig to see where his preferences lie.
Of the four Africans above, does anyone satisfy the criteria in the innermost mind of Mr Hayatou? Probably not.
In Seychelles in 2012, following a declaration by Jacques Anouma of Cote d’Ivoire to contest the CAF Presidency against Issa Hayatou, a motion was raised. It was raised by Mohamed Raouraoua of Algeria, demanding a provision in statutes that whoever wants to contest the CAF Presidency must have served on the decision-making body of CAF (the Executive Committee) for a time before he can be eligible.
Although President Hayatou was not a voting member of the congress that adopted Raouraoua’s motion, he was known to have favoured it.
If the rule in CAF says this, then I am sure that many people will expect that the mentality of the Africans will be the same in the bigger picture. Therefore, neither Bility, Kalu, Odegbami or Sexwale satisfy that criteria.
So, where will Africa go?
Africa has 54 members. That is 54 votes out of a required 105 to win the FIFA hot seat. With how Africa has voted in the past, one would expect a minimum 80% to go in one direction. 45-50 votes en bloc from Africa will make a big impact in the ambition of the candidate that wins African support.
That is why it is a widely held belief that Africa is a key battleground for this contest.
But, things are still happening – meetings still being held, talks ongoing, and it remains to be seen whether Africa will realise what it is sitting on and will decide well and vote well, to protect what I always say we should – the sanctity and positive growth of football in our continent.