The indictment released by the US Justice Department on Wednesday made for cold
reading, confirming cynical suspicions about the dirty nature of backroom
football dealings and draining the credibility from one of South Africa’s
On about page 80 of a lengthy, and detailed FBI investigation, is the
gut-wrenching allegation that a senior South African bid official travelled to
Paris with stacks of US$100 bills to buy the vote of Jack Warner, then the
influential boss of Caribbean football whose block of votes were crucial to
winning the 2010 World Cup.
The pride of presenting a brilliant face to the world in hosting a successful
2010 event is now tarnished by the allegations, which must be proven in a court
of law but are hard to discount.
There have been a lot of denials in recent hours, but few with any credibility
and none from the top of the football structures.
South Africa had been hard done by in its previous bid by alleged German muscle
and the gutless morality of the New Zealander Charles Dempsey. The 2006 World
Cup went to Germany but South Africa won world sympathy for the way it was
stitched up and was able to ascend to the moral high ground.
In 2010, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates led South Africa’s bid and Nelson
Mandela’s genuine delight at winning the World Cup bid in May 2004 was a day
never to forget. He danced a little jig with the trophy firmly clasped in his
hand, looking more delighted than any previous tournament winning captain.
More than a decade on from that day in Zurich, those images are now tarnished
by the possibility it was not Madiba magic or Tutu charm that helped ensure
South Africa won the bid ... but stacks of dollars.
It is now incumbent on the government to launch a proper probe and swiftly
prosecute any wrong doing as quickly as possible. In other words, treat the
festering sore with due haste.
Any person involved in any impropriety must face criminal charges and should be
banned from football for life if found guilty.
The game needs a fresh start after all the muck floating about. South Africa’s
authorities can show the right path to many others in the world if they spend
less time on the defensive and rather seek to do the right thing.
Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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