S'Busiso Mseleku

USA mischievous in including SA in their FIFA indictment

2015-06-01 12:24
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)

For years, football has been known to be a game of perceptions.

To know just how serious this is, you must listen to analysis of soccer matches by commentators, experts and the coaches of the two sides after a game .

Given this, I found it very mischievous of the US Attorney General Loretta to include South Africa in the FIFA Indictment that saw about 14 football officials being arrested.

In part, the indictment insinuates that South Africa paid $10 million or R120 million in today's terms, in bribes to get the right to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

According to the dossier, the money was paid in 2008, two years before the event took place in South Africa and it came from FIFA coffers and went directly into Concacaf bank accounts.

Those involved have pointed out that South Africa was awarded the rights to host the World Cup on May 14, 2004. They question then why the bribes - if there were any - would be paid four years later.

However, that is not the point of this column.

The problem I have with the Americans, is them mentioning South Africa at all. They say their investigation started in December 2014. It culminated in arrests of those who have something to answer in US courts.

They, and their countries were never mentioned before they were arrested. So why treat South Africa differently?

All the mention of the $10 million plus the two South African individuals only listed as Co-conspirator #15 and #16 has done is create a lot of speculation.

Both the SA government and the individuals involved with the 2006 bid committee and 2010 bid committee and the Local Organising Committee now find themselves in a position where they need to explain themselves.

South African Football Association (SAFA) spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi's initial statement was to dismiss the allegations as "baseless".

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula issued a statement exonerating the government from any wrongdoing.

And then on the last paragraph of his statement, he added: "As this is a matter of national importance, we call upon all who were involved in the process of bidding and execution of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to desist from making statements and to afford the National Government of the Republic of South Africa through the Ministry and Department of Sport and Recreation to handle this matter through the diplomatic channels."

What this meant, is that the individuals whose names have been mentioned in the media as the possible Co-conspirator #15 and #16 could no longer says anything on the matter.

While the Americans have undermined the sovereignty of this country, I think it also flies against democracy to deprive people the right to have a say when their names are mentioned in the same breath with some shenanigans, speculation or not.

While the government deals with the US on diplomatic levels - government to government - the individuals mentioned in the media should not be gagged from commenting in the matter.

As things stand, South Africa's 2006 bid committee and the 2010 bid committee as well as the LOC have been painted in a bad light by the US.

A perception has been created that there was something underhand with how South Africa handled their bid and winning the rights to host the 2010 event, which also plays into the perception of FIFA as a corrupt organisation that has been created over years.

As mentioned at the beginning of this column, perceptions are very easily created, especially in football.

The US needs to come clean with its allegations and  back them up but in the meantime let the people who were involved with the bid, LOC and hosting talk.

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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