FIFA Shops for New President

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Even as bribery scandal continues to rock the FIFA, the world football body, many names have come up as possible replacement for Sepp Blatter who resigned from his plum job as president of the body

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun 3, 2015 @ 16:25 GMT  |

FIFA, the world football body is in search of a new president. Sepp Blatter, occupant of the exalted seat, shocked the world when he announced his resignation as FIFA president on Tuesday, June 2, thereby creating an opportunity for those he had been denied the opportunity to vie for the post. Blatter, 79, won an unprecedented fifth time on Friday, May 29.  In his resignation letter, the former most powerful man in football said he hoped that FIFA would convene an extra ordinary meeting at its own convenience to elect his successor.

When the FIFA executive does that, one of those whose names are being tipped as a possible successor is Ali bin Al Hussein, Jordanian prince and the only challenger at the last election. Ali withdrew after 73 votes to Blatter’s 133 in the first round. But he is expected to renew his ambition to lead the troubled organisation now that Blatter has thrown in the towel.

However, analysts would like to tip Michel Platini, European football federation chief as the favourite. Platini, a French former international football player said of Blatter’s resignation: “It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.”

Another possible candidate is Zico, a former Brazilian international footballer. He did not rule out a bid for the presidency, and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela suggested that Diego Maradona, Argentine soccer legend, could be the card.

Whatever, the person to succeed Blatter will have to be above board and someone capable of cleaning the rut in the FIFA. This is because it is widely believe that Blatter’s problem must have emanated from the ongoing investigations of corruption into the affairs of the FIFA by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI. During the convention and two days before Blatter was re-elected for the fifth time, seven officials of the FIFA were arrested by the Swiss police based on corrupt allegations by the FBI. The officials who were still awaiting extradition to the US were said have been involved in accepting bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150million in past 24 years.

Shocked by the arrest Blatter attacked the US justice department, saying after his re-election that “No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of FIFA. It doesn’t smell good. Why would I step down? That would mean I recognise that I did wrong. I fought for the last three or four years against all the corruption,” he said.

The New York Times said the US law enforcement officials had confirmed that Blatter himself was now the focus of a federal corruption investigation, after the arrest of the FIFA officials.

FIFA has been dogged by corruption allegations for years but it was rocked to its foundation following the May 27 arrests of the FIFA officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.  The charges are part of a US prosecution that indicted a total of 14 people from around the globe. Further allegations emerged on Tuesday, June 2, that probably increased the pressure on Blatter. Reports claimed that Jerome Valcke, FIFA general secretary, was responsible for an alleged payment of a $10 million (£6m) bribe in relation to South Africa’s bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

But the South African government on Wednesday, June 3, said it didn’t pay bribe to anybody to secure the hosting rights of 2010 World Cup. Addressing a press conference, Fikile Mbalula, South African minister of sports, stated that the alleged US$10m was legitimate allocation to African Diaspora programme in terms of World Cup legacy. Mbalula said the payment was made to the CONCACAF for the African Diaspora programme. But the attorney general claimed that it was a bribe to secure the World Cup for South Africa in 2010. The US said the money was allocated on the condition that it would be administered by Jack Warner, a former vice-president of FIFA, now a key suspect in the corruption case. “It was explained that … money would support other projects in the Diaspora. Some people somewhere, they don’t even allege, they state as fact that we bribed,” Mbalula said.

The minister said that South Africa had no control over what happened to the money once it had been allocated to Warner. “Criminals can explain a bribe very well I don’t know how bribes worked. Bribes are like a ghost, you never touch it. The onus is not on us. What we are saying, we did not bribe. We don’t know what compromised individuals say when they are compromised. We don’t know. We can’t account for it. The fact that this later they turned gangsters that is not our problem. We were not sniffer dogs to check everybody’s legitimacy,” he said.

As the case stands, Blatter’s resignation means that the votes for the hosts of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups will be looked into more closely and Qatar will be feeling uncomfortable too. The stance of both countries has always been that they did not do or pay anything illicit to any of the then FIFA executive committee members who voted. That may put a lie on their claim because several of them are also now being investigated.

Russia and Qatar will have huge legal claims against FIFA if the tournaments are removed from them and the votes re-run, without solid evidence that their bids, not FIFA’s own executives, were corrupt. Despite inglorious exit, Corinne Blatter-Andenmatten, his daughter, Blick, a Swiss newspaper quoted her as saying her father’s decision “has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the allegations going around.”

Be that as it may, Blatter’s promises to bring a fresh breath of air to the corruption infested organisation. But that will also depend on who heads the world football body.

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