The happenings in far away Zurich, Switzerland on
Friday were quite interesting.
While they happened thousands of miles away from our
shores, they might have serious and long-lasting repercussions on South African
If you have just crawled out from under a rock
somewhere, FIFA, the scandal-riddled world football governing body,
elected its 10th president to
And as has happened eight
times previously, Gianni Infantino, one of two Europeans among the five candidates, emerged as
Oh! By the way, in the end, there were four after
South Africa's - and the only African candidate - Tokyo Sexwale pulled out in the
After ascending the podium to utilise his 15 minutes
given to every candidate to address the Congress for the final time before
members went to the ballot, Sexwale withdrew from the race leaving Infantino,
the two Asians Shaikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa and Prince Ali bin Al Hussein,
and Frenchman Jerome Champagne to fight it out.
You might be wondering why dare I say that the results
of these elections might have some implications for South African and
Well, a month before the elections, CAF signed a
memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Sheikh Salman of Bahrain who heads the
Asian Football Confederation. This was followed by the continental body
endorsing Salman as their favoured candidate.
By this move, they pinned their colours to the mast
and it was clear who they supported much as there were a few dissenting voices
including that of the rebellious Liberian football Musa Bility who announced
that he was behind Infantino.
The South African Football Association (SAFA), despite
having their own in Sexwale, never voiced their disagreement with CAF, but
instead started poking holes into Sexwale's campaign.
But Friday's outcome showed that despite being the
biggest block in FIFA with 54 members, got it all wrong and it was proved once
more that they are not as powerful as they would like us to believe and also no more kingmakers.
With Europe being the most powerful block
economically, where does this leave CAF and South Africa? Not in a very good
position I guess.
Infantino's victory actually left CAF and SAFA with egg all over their faces.
Actually, Infantino's victory reminded me of an
anecdote about an old wily politician who used to rule one of the then
Transvaal (now Gauteng) townships with
an iron fist as mayor.
The story goes that on the eve of every election, he
would tell the voters in IsiXhosa that: "Abandivoteleyo,
ndiyobakhumbula, abangandivotelanga soze ndibalibale" which loosely
translates to "those who vote for me, I will remember but those who don't,
I will never forget."
You see, there is a very thin line between remembering
somebody and never forgetting them. One is a promise while the other is a
Just as Jesus Christ promised one of the two robbers crucified with him who had asked Him to "remember me in your
kingdom", that "tonight I will be with you in Paradise", don't
be shocked when Infantino remembers those who stood and voted for him when it's
time to cut and divide the cake on FIFA's table.
These things happen in life, people remember those who
have their back when it matters.
And we will continue to wonder why Africa always
lags behind. It is high time African leaders in all spheres woke up and
smelt the coffee.
Catch a wake-up! And learn to play your cards properly.
Speaking of which, was it not a masterstroke for
Sexwale to invite and take Infantino on a tour of Robben Island on the eve of
the elections? I guess he scored a lot more points than CAF and SAFA combined
just by that move and will soon reap the rewards of being politically savvy.
Just watch this space! S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading
sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of
the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is
currently City Press Sports Editor.
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