By the 1000th day in office, US President Donald J. Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered.
You would have to be pretty special to have a dedicated fact-checker database shadowing you and your statements daily.
It is the reason why the football World cringes every time pictures appear in the media that seem to point to a rather cozy relationship between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and The Trump.
The Infantino era at FIFA has equally been characterized by the bend of the moral arch towards injustice and a Swiss in-born hardnosedness towards achieving his ends even if it means ignoring such minor inconveniences as the laid down rules and/or the unvarnished truth.
Just this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that FIFA had disregarded its own Human Rights commitments in the bidding process that saw China surprisingly selected to host the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup (CWC) in 2021.
Human Rights Watch is a well-respected International Non-Governmental organization, headquartered in New York, and which conducts research and advocacy on human rights.
The FIFA CWC was mooted earlier this year following the decision by FIFA to abolish the FIFA Confederations Cup and fill the void left behind with a 24-team CWC, in every year preceding the FIFA World Cup.
The shock announcement was made on October 24th in Shanghai which had hosted a meeting of the FIFA Council, but analysts see it as a continuation of Infantino’s appeasement policy and cozying up to the World’s major political and financial giants.
The financial backlash from the 2015 FIFA-gate scandal had showed Infantino that the European and to a large extent North American companies held an inconveniently high moral standard, that had seen many of them pull away.
This had the potential to seriously stifle the revenue base for FIFA competitions and commercial activities.
Oddly, instead of tightening the Governance and Ethical structure of FIFA in order to placate the jittery European and North American companies, Infantino has instead chosen to turn east, where these Governments and companies (most which owe allegiance to their Governments) have no moral compunction about the unethical nature of FIFA activities.
“FIFA flouted its own human rights commitments by granting hosting rights to China for the Club World Cup,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. “FIFA is sending the message that the rules that apply to other governments don’t apply to Beijing.”
HRW noted that contrary to FIFA statutes and policies, there was no public bidding process, no stakeholder consultations, and no human rights risk assessment.
What obviously should have been of concern to FIFA was the fact that abuses it chose to ignore would directly affect groups participating in the FIFA Club World Cup, including athletes and fans from around the world, workers building venues, and journalists, among others. China has no domestic media or internet freedoms, core requirements for FIFA event hosts.
Many of the well-documented abuses and atrocities that continue to be committed by the Chinese Government include labor abuses, mass arbitrary detention, mass surveillance, torture, severe restrictions on journalists, and mistreatment of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in “political education” camps in Xinjiang according to HRW.
Infantino on his part continues to harp on the tired old line of FIFA mandate to organize and develop football all over the World.
However, it would appear that FIFA gifted China this CWC, without the benefit of a bid or even an expression of interest, and it begs the question of whether there was a quid pro quo..?
Hue and cry was raised last year at the proposal by Infantino to create brand new competitions, which he had secretly arranged to sell off for a reported $25 Billion to a consortium fronted by Japanese Wealth Fund SOFTBANK whose major client is the Saudi Sovereign Fund.
The Saudi Sovereign Fund comprises money mainly from the Royal family and generated by the Oil giant –Saudi Aramco, which is associated with the youthful Mohammed Bin Salman who is widely believed to have personally ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.
Saudi Aramco currently is in the middle of its first ever IPO despite a bomb attack on its facility, suspected to be for its role in the war of attrition on Yemen that has caused untold suffering in the country.
Infantino continues to totally disregard the concerns of the most credible organizations in the World, in how he executes his temporary mandate.
The Council of Europe raised serious concerns about how Infantino hired María Claudia Rojas, the Colombian judge appointed in May to chair FIFA’s ethics committee’s investigatory branch, who it said does not have the requisite experience of conducting criminal or financial investigations.
“Also,” the report stated, “her lack of knowledge of English and French is a major obstacle, as almost all documents [relevant to the investigations] are in one of these two languages.
This is not merely a factor that risks slowing her down in her examination of case files … but it also means – and this is much more problematic – that she is more dependent on the FIFA secretariat that assists her and that it is objectively difficult for her to enter into confidential contacts with witnesses or experts.”
The appointment of Rojas followed FIFA’s Governing council replacement of Swiss prosecutor Cornel Borbely, the governing body’s chief ethics investigator, and ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, both of whom showed immense independence by suspending former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke and former European soccer boss Michel Platini.
A direct effect of the appointment of Maria Claudia Rojas has been an evident slow-down (whether by design or default) of some of the major cases, either inherited or originated during her tenure.
The most damning of these has been the dossier of the African Confederation (CAF) President Ahmad who has been accused by employees of financial impropriety and sexual harassment and assault of female members of staff and outside contractors.
Independently, the French anti-corruption and fiscal crimes police arrested Ahmad in Paris in June 2019 to answer to allegations of laundering CAF money through a French company by the name Tactical Steel.
Though released without charge after 12-hours of questioning, the French police continue with their enquiries by taking statements and other evidence from former CAF employees and contractors.
The FIFA investigatory chamber has placed these formal complaints both from within CAF and also by the French police, on the back-burner at the behest of Infantino, who apparently wishes to keep the 54 African votes in tight grip, ostensibly for his 3rd attempt at the FIFA Presidency in 2023.
Africa continues bear the brunt of Infantino’s disregard for the rule of law when in July this year, in a bid to stop an internal insurrection within CAF caused by revelations of the underhand activities by and in order to save his political ally Ahmad, he manipulated two organs of FIFA, namely the Bureau to the FIFA Council and the FIFA Council itself, into approving what is now derisively known as the CAF-FIFA hostile takeover.
Despite the written and spoken objections of respected UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin to the dangerous precedent set by FIFA in its direct involvement in the affairs of an independent confederation like CAF, Infantino was able to rally the support he needed from members to proceed with his plan.
Today, African football continues to unravel right in front of our eyes, for instance with African FAs compelled to sign away their commercial rights to FIFA for the World Cup qualifiers until 2023.
Elsewhere, a 12-year, $1 Billion commercial contract with French company Lagadere Sports & Entertainment has been unilaterally cancelled this November (in its 3rd year) with rumors being that the rights would be onward sold to Chinese media conglomerate Dalian Wanda.
Of serious concern is the regularity with which Chinese and Arabian money keeps popping up in football, unfettered and unencumbered by the need for accountability.
Could the hosting rights to the CWC have been a veritable quid pro quo for the acquisition of African commercial rights by a Chinese Company?
Now Infantino has just announced a plan to raise at least $1 Billion which he will immediately pump into African football through infrastructure, Referees and competitions.
In 2017, and to cap a “night of the long knives” of FIFA independent committees (Ethics and Governance), Infantino also ejected Portuguese Miguel Maduro who was the head of the FIFA Governance committee, allegedly angry at his role in blocking Russian World Cup official Vitaly Mutko from keeping his seat on FIFA’s ruling council.
Mutko was barred because his role as Russia’s deputy prime minister was deemed to be in conflict with FIFA’s regulations on political neutrality.
Maduro later told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee at the House of Commons in England that FIFA has an “incapacity” to deal with independent scrutiny.
“There is a culture in the institution itself that is extremely resistant to accountability,” he said.
You just need to see Infantino’s dalliance with the autocracies of the World to understand his World view – Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and now Trump!
Football has surely lost its soul!