Things have been moving extremely fast at UEFA in the last few weeks since the landmark signing of a cooperation agreement with the South American Confederation powerhouse CONMEBOL, which in real sense was a formalization of the political interests to protect themselves from the extremely dangerous provocations and career-ending proposals from FIFA and its President Gianni Infantino.
In truth, the fact that UEFA had sought to maintain a studious silence in the face of all these provocations may have emboldened Infantino to proceed with proposals that would have meant whittling down the commercial prospects and viability of UEFA competitions.
Consider too that UEFA and CONMEBOL have watched the preferential treatment given to Africa and its 54-member vote basket, whose leadership in turn is allowed to loot the football development funds both at African Confederation (CAF) and in their individual Football Associations (FAs).
In mid-2019 UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin actually had to protest to Infantino about the plan that was ambushed on the FIFA Bureau of the Council to allow a takeover of the African Confederation by FIFA, the placement of FIFA SG Fatma Samoura as the Special Delegate for Africa, and ultimately to shield CAF President Ahmad Ahmad from having to step down after his widely publicized arrest and questioning by the French anti-corruption police in Paris on the sidelines of the FIFA elective congress.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) also have developed a healthy disrespect and rabid allergy of the African Confederation and its members ever since they betrayed them at the vote for FIFA President in February 2016 by slyly refusing to vote for Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa of Bahrain despite taking his money and promising to do so.
In fact, many Africans believe that Africa and Asia should have a literal partnership and convergence of competitions and assistance, but that would be impossible with the current crop of African football leaders who only see their participation in World football as an opportunity to line their individual pockets.
Many African FA Presidents took money too from the former AFC President Mohammed Bin Hamman of Qatar on the promise of voting for him against Sepp Blatter, only to snooker him in the end, and run into the embrace of the morally decrepit Blatter.
The PWC report, commissioned by FIFA to look into CAF accounts since 2017, that was leaked a few weeks ago on the (mis)use of funds by the African confederation (CAF) signaled to all the other confederations that CAF is an actual existential threat to the existence of the commercial properties of the other Confederations, seeing as they (CAF) would vote for the most ludicrous proposals by anyone who would turn a blind eye to their own thievery on the African continent.
UEFA, CONMEBOL and AFC are currently watching bemusedly at the unfolding scenario in Africa, and whether Infantino will take appropriate steps against CAF mandarins through his hand-picked FIFA Ethics committee.
In what must have been a test-drive of their newfound alliance, UEFA-CONMENBOL wanted to pass a vote of no-confidence on Infantino at the last scheduled FIFA Council meeting, forcing him to beat a hasty retreat and call off the meeting.
Now UEFA – CONMEBOL-AFC have Infantino on the back foot, where he is furiously back-pedaling in an effort to maintain his footing, as the onslaught from his former colleagues has now turned into a reality.
Maybe Infantino, at 49 years of age was too young to be thrust upon such a high seat that requires sagacity and dexterity in handling so many moving parts. His predecessor Blatter always knew that to maintain World Power you would not rock the boat in such a way that you took the food from the mouths of your most gifted children (UEFA and CONMEBOL) while pandering to the wishes and desires of your most dysfunctional, retarded and prodigal son (CAF).
UEFA have gone further and entered into a partnership with SIGA, an independent, not-for-profit coalition of sports federations, governments, and non-governmental organisations (NGO). It exists, to “instigate real, meaningful, and actionable reforms” in sport.
SIGA, which stands for Sports Integrity Global Alliance was founded in 2015 and currently being run by Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros and is made up of more than 100 multi-industry supporters, the alliance has been funded by its members across various entities, from La Liga, the organizing body for top-flight soccer in Spain, to international brands, including Mastercard and Qatar Airways.
It also holds several partnerships with governments, including relationships with the US, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, and Greece, with whom Medeiros hopes to collaborate around the manner in which leaders of the world and the world of sport work together on issues of integrity.
This is extremely significant, considering that by the time that Infantino came on-board as FIFA President, the organization had taken a severe credibility beating following the arrests and indictments by the US Department of Justice in what came to be known as FIFA-gate.
The partnership also comes at a time that the Swiss Office of the Attorney-General OAG has announced indictments for former FIFA SG Jerome Valcke and the chairman of the BeIN Media Group, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a Qatari businessman in the sports rights sector in connection with the award of media rights to various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments.
The crimes in the lengthy indictment was based on Swiss law with a possible imprisonment of up to three years, but then for some inexplicable reason, the matter never reached the Swiss Federal Court. FIFA successfully managed to knock Nasser Al-Khelaifi out of the hands of Swiss justice system at the last moment and thereby frustrated the development of a much deeper criminal part of the investigation.
At the end of January 2020, FIFA withdrew the lawsuit against its former senior employee, Valcke and Al-Khelaifi, with an absurd reference to a “good neighborly agreement” that had been reached.
But who agreed with whom, what good reasons led to this swift “agreement”?
Did Qatar put pressure on FIFA boss Gianni Infantino to withdraw the complaints and if so, for what reasons? They certainly do have some striking points of contact.
Manchester City has just been banned from the UEFA Champions League for two years due to a violation of Fairplay financial rules. A similar problem occurred in 2014 with PSG and which were highlighted by Football Leaks which showed that Infantino, as UEFA’s secretary general, helped Al-Khelaifi avoid massive fines.
We have often highlighted here, the scandalous affair in the secret liasion between Infantino and the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber. Lauber was forced to recuse himself from all FIFA investigations by his own department in May 2019 but somehow miraculously did not lose his job.
The duo of Infantino and Lauber met at least on three occasions in secret and without a protocol, which is a gross violation of Swiss law. This happened in June 2017, when the investigation into the Valcke and Qatar case was alive and lasted for close to three months.
Apparently these secret meetings happened at the Qatar Embassy in Switzerland and at the Berne hotel Schweizerhof, which belongs to the Qatari Emirate. It was precisely at these two-hour long meetings that both Lauber and Infantino apparently also forgot to report as is the protocol.
In any event it is a poorly kept secret that the Bernese hotel of the Qatari sheikhs was a regular meeting joint between Lauber and Infantino.
Clearly, the corruption investigation against Qatar’s top football management would have caused significant reputational damage to the World Cup-2022, coming as it did on the backs of the clear evidence that the Qataris actually purchased the hosting rights from members of the FIFA Executive Committee.
The super-rich Qatari never even sought to acquire football rights as competitively as would be the case elsewhere, happy instead to entrench himself in football business with big money in the easily corruptible leadership at both FIFA and UEFA.
The current UEFA leadership knows much more about what happened between Infantino and Al-Khelaifi but moreso around FIFA and Qatar. Al-Khelaifi sits in the UEFA Executive Committee and we are informed that at the next UEFA Congress in Amsterdam, its members will insist on a temporary suspension of Qataris membership.
Even before then however, the UEFA leadership has every reason to insist on the full disclosure of the so-called “good neighborly agreements” between FIFA, Al-Khelaifi and Valcke. It is and has always been about FIFA money and multi-million personal benefits, and all this while Infantino continues to constantly tell fairy tales about FIFA’s “zero tolerance” to corruption.
Al Khelaifi it seems, cannot extricate himself from claims of bribery, as he has been charged with corruption in May 2019, after being accused of attempting to buy the rights to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships for Doha.
French judge Renaud van Ruymbeke has charged the Qatari businessman – who is also chairman of the Bein Media Group and also Qatar Sports Investments that owns PSG football club – over allegations that a $3.5m payment was paid to the disgraced former International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Lamine Diack in return of the 2017 World Championships.
The games were eventually granted to London in 2017 but came to Doha in Qatar in September 2019.
To refer to the FIFA Ethics committee as a mockery, would in itself be an understatement, considering the reports from the Football Leaks and the protests of The Council of Europe whose own report stated that María Claudia Rojas, the Colombian judge appointed by Infantino to chair FIFA’s Ethics committee’s investigatory branch, did not have the requisite experience of conducting criminal or financial investigations.
The report also stated that, “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.”
SIGA’s CEO Medeiros in an interview with SportsPro Media says that “The challenges are the same as they were before May 2015,” “The difference is that time has become more critical and expectations need to be matched. And, although changes have been made since the FBI took action in Zurich, the reality shows that there is a huge amount of work to be done and there is still a great feeling of denial in many sports organizations.”
He continues “None more so than soccer, the sport is 90 per cent “a dark space” due to a lack of transparency and information currently available to the public.
“When information isn’t made available, you then start to find smoke that perhaps indicates that there must be fire,”
And that is exactly where Infantino finds himself today, with a hostile UEFA-CONMEBOL-AFC on the one hand and the kleptomaniac CAF on the other, and a juggling act that seems too complicated for his young hands and his pale heart.
The only viable option for Gianni Infantino right now is to stop meddling with the Ethics investigation on the four (4) CAF officials Ahmad Ahmad, Constant Omari, Fouzi Lekjaa & Hany Abourida who have been fingered in the PwC audit as having overseen the theft of $24million and let nature run it’s course. He then has to let Africans determine their own destiny by ceasing any future meddling in their domestic politics.
Over and above that, he must back-track on all these phantom initiatives fronted by private equity funds and halt these plans for his own survival. He must start talking about the pyramid structure of football more than the money.
O, what a tangled web we weave when first we learn to deceive! (Walter Scott)