Magazine article New African

The Saga of the Africans at Fifa: The Recent Fines and Bans Imposed on Four African Fifa Officials for Unethical Behaviour Is a Humiliating but Timely Slap in the Face That Should Make the Continent's Football Fraternity Clean Up Its Act, Argues Our Football Editor, Osasu Obayiuwana

Magazine article New African

The Saga of the Africans at Fifa: The Recent Fines and Bans Imposed on Four African Fifa Officials for Unethical Behaviour Is a Humiliating but Timely Slap in the Face That Should Make the Continent's Football Fraternity Clean Up Its Act, Argues Our Football Editor, Osasu Obayiuwana

Article excerpt

WHEN FIFA'S "WORLD CUP votes for cash" scandal hit the headlines in November, it left the world football governing body, whose reputation for probity has been far from sterling in recent years, deeper in the mire. The "sting operation" of the London Sunday Times newspaper, which video-taped Amos Adamu, the Fifa executive committee member from Nigeria, allegedly asking undercover journalists for an illegal payment to be made to him "directly", in exchange for being favourably disposed to the USA's 2022 World Cup bid, left Fifa with no option but to launch an enquiry.

And the unavoidable but distasteful consequence was that African football found itself at the sharp end of the Sunday Times investigation. Other football personalities from the continent allegedly behaved in a similar unethical manner that compromised the integrity of the bidding process for the recently awarded 2018 and 2022 World Cups, given to Russia and Qatar by the reduced 22-man Fifa executive committee.

"The damage caused to Fifa's image is very great," admitted Claudio Sulser, who chaired the ethics committee that looked into the revelations made by the Sunday Times. "When one talks of Fifa, there is generally a negative attitude out there--talk of corruption and so on--but it's no joke, because Fifa is a big organisation with many interests and certain things can go awry."

Four of the six people sanctioned by the ethics committee came from Africa--Tunisia's Slim Aloulou, Mali's Amadou Diakite, Botswana's Ismail Bhamjee, in addition to Nigeria's Adamu.

Aloulou is a former Fifa executive member and a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee. He got a two-year ban from all football-related activities.

Bhamjee, previously expelled from the Fifa executive committee in 2006 for ticket profiteering, was given a four-year ban, whilst Diakite, also a former Fifa and CAF executive committee member, was suspended for three years.

Reynald Temarii, the Oceania Football Confederation president, also on the FIFA executive, and Ahongalu Fusimalohi of Tonga were the two non-Africans banned and fined.

"These decisions were very difficult to take because the commission was aware of what was at stake and that the punishments could be very serious. But FIFA needed us to take decisions," Sulser said.

The sanctioning of Adamu, banned for three years and fined $10,000--a financial penalty also imposed on the other culprits--was extremely embarrassing, as the Nigerian was, believe it or not, the president of CAF's Committee for Ethics and Fair Play.

"I am profoundly disappointed with the ethics committee's findings and had honestly believed I would be exonerated of any charges by now," Adamu said in reaction to the Fifa ruling.

Although Adamu continues to protest his innocence and has vowed to have the ban overturned by Fifa's appeal committee and, if that fails, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, the weight of recorded evidence against him makes the possibility of a successful appeal extremely remote.

And his troubles continue to multiply, as the Nigerian government, furious with the shame his behaviour has brought to the country, is determined to make an example of the nation's former director of sports development.

Says an aide to Nigeria's sports minister Ibrahim Bio:

"Adamu has been involved in too many controversies over the years; he was in government, but it was impossible for anyone to sanction him because there was no prima facie case made against him. But now that Fifa has found him guilty of unethical behaviour, the government is determined to punish him for the disgrace his behaviour has brought to Nigeria."

On top of this, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has declared that Adamu, who has refused to return to Nigeria since the Fifa ban (fearing arrest), will be invited for questioning as soon as he returns to the country. …

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