Before 2020, no one really thought that the World could be changed indelibly except in situation of global conflict, as would happen in a World War.
Now an innocuous virus, apparently emanating from the Chinese City of Wuhan has brought the global economy to its knees by spiking business closures and job losses to unprecedented levels, curtailing virtually all air travel, keeping large swathes of the productive population in lock-down or quarantine and infecting even some of the World’s top political and National leaders.
British Airways, the flag carrier of the empire has announced the closure of the entire airline, just months after the pandemic erupted and affecting thousands of employees in the process.
Does anyone believe that the collapse of British Airways will signal the end of Air travel by Brits upon resumption of normalcy?
Suddenly, even global blue chips have discovered that it is possible to align themselves with the changes heralded by this pandemic.
Facebook and Twitter announced in May that a large portion of their workforces could henceforth work remotely “forever” and in the process save the companies millions of dollars in annual rental and other costs.
The concept of the office space, office romance and camaraderie that had been alive for 3 generations, had already become fluid with the advent of co-working spaces like one fronted by the startup WeWork, which was a product of Japanese Softbank’s poorly conceived investment strategy, and which recently led to the huffy resignation of Alibaba’s Jack Ma from its board.
The same Softbank that had proposed to acquire the commercial rights for FIFA’s brand new competitions and its invaluable archives, on behalf of the Saudi Arabian sovereign fund, which it manages.
So it is conceivable that the World can actually change overnight without consultation or conflict, and that change is the only constant in this life.
It is the reason that so many people would like a return to default settings, easier and more predictable times for their economies and way of life.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced that the country had defeated covid-19 in late May, only for them to allow two infected travelers into the country to begin a new wave of infections, a mere 3 weeks later.
FIFA, football’s World governing body ranks right up there with the biggest global organizations within the UN system (UN, UNHCR, UNICEF et al).
That says a lot about the power of football to touch and change billions of lives while also acting as a vehicle for the delivery of Government mandate to its citizens, both of which mean that football surpasses even the Olympic Games in magnitude, and thus FIFA cannot really be compared with the IOC.
In this vein, it is not uncommon to find football leagues being used to educate citizens on the benefits of (for instance) their National Health Services or like in Argentina where the former President arranged for broadcast rights to be acquired by Government and all games shown on Free-to-Air channels, with the stipulation at all advertising should exclusively be Government.
That is exactly what football should be all about, a mix of entertainment and the potential to change the lives of the global population, but for some reason, it appears that the global body charged with this mandate has willfully derailed it.
In 2016, upon the election of current President Gianni Infantino and the selection of Senegalese Fatma Samoura as Secretary-General (SG), FIFA took its first step in dismantling the FIFA Anti-racism taskforce, a crucial cog in the system that had previously been key in keeping the World in touch with the reality of both covert and overt racism.
There was absolutely no bigger platform in the World on which to drive this message than to see the World’s biggest football icons carrying those anti-racism banners into stadia, beamed to billions of people on television and seen by hundreds of thousands in-stadium on those match-days.
FIFA stood for something then, and hardly have 4 years passed since this disbandment, than the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a Worldwide blitz of protests and condemnation towards the deeply entrenched acts of racism that continue to exist in bastions of whiteness everywhere.
FIFA, in an attempt to not be left out or seen to be unresponsive to social stimuli, quickly attempted to unauthentically buy itself into the #blacklivesmatter movement, just years after they had destroyed their own perfectly ingenious anti-racism platform.
New FIFA certainly lacks God-given vision, its decisions reek of the kind of novice-ism that is uncharacteristic of such huge, complex organisms.
It is this and several other questionable decisions by FIFA that have led to quiet revolt from within the stronger member confederations, namely UEFA and CONMEBOL against FIFA leadership.
Certainly within private circles of the two confederations, a question keeps being asked without a final decisive answer, does World football really need FIFA?
The UN had been preceded by the now-defunct League of Nations, a body that was formed towards the end of the Great War (WW1) in 1919 and whose mandate included disarmament, preventing future wars through collective security, settling disputes between countries through negotiation diplomacy and improving global welfare.
The demise of the League of Nations can be attributed to the fact that the economic sanctions imposed on the losing countries did not work due to the self-interest of leading members. M, who just also happened to be the victors, and thus many defeated countries saw the league as part of those lopsided treaties and so associated it with their defeat.
The fact that WW2 erupted exactly 20 years after the end of WW1 is the clearest indictment of the League of Nations and just how badly it had bungled its mandate.
It is quite natural actually, that when the interests of an organization appear to be at odds or in conflict with those of its membership, the organization risks an internal collision of a cataclysmic nature.
At FIFA, there is the growing perception that the organization has blatantly arrogated to itself more importance than its members.
For example, members have watched over the years, the outright sale of successive hosting rights to the most valuable commercial property – The FIFA World Cup – by members of the Executive committee.
Members have watched in disbelief as the FIFA Presidency has taken upon itself an aristocratic demeanor, with the coronation of elected presidents, the imposition of an accepted system of nepotism and cronyism in the employment opportunities therein, the re-make of critical committees with yes-men and foot soldiers.
Most disturbing though, has been the parity practiced within FIFA in the redistribution of its income to its 211 odd members, all of whom get a standard amount regardless their contribution to the ‘baking of the cake’, in a grotesque and dystopian form of the Marxist rationale.
Unfortunately, the FIFA system has become so blatantly corrupted that these funds are now gifted to member associations who have demonstrably no interest or intention of developing their association football, waiting patiently instead for the immense input and wonderful output of others to fill up the coffers at FIFA, from which they can be rewarded, and then continue to gorge themselves shamelessly.
No example better exemplifies this insanely asinine state of affairs than the African Confederations (CAF) top football awards ceremony, called the African Footballer of the Year (AFOTY) which aims to celebrate the continents best football talent.
Every year, CAF throws a dazzling shindig in select African capitals to award the best African player, an epithet used to mean any footballer of African origin.
Now, all the players nominated for this award typically ply their trade in the top European leagues, coached by top European and South American coaches, get treated in elite European medical facilities, train at the very best European facilities, get paid with money from European commercial activities…you get the drift…?
Many of these players would switch nationalities were they given the option by those European countries, and many of their compatriots likely already have switched allegiances.
In the greatest acknowledgement of their own intellectual laziness, African football leaders shortlist these players, most of whose only claim to African football is their handful of appearances for their National teams annually, for World Cup and AFCON qualifiers.
The work of selection is made easier by ease of access to broadcast of European league, cup and continental matches on PayTv and FTA channels, with additional analysis from European pundits on websites and blogs.
The selection of the AFOTY is therefore already done and decided for the lazy African selectors by Europeans in this shameless capitulation of independence of thought.
In all this, players who ply their trade on the African continent are ignored, mainly because African football leaders only interest is the glitz and glamour of associating with European products on the one hand, and the general laziness and disinterest in the local football product in Africa.
Worse, it’s escapism by African football leaders who would not want to show the World their sloppy work by parading the unkempt, underpaid and unpresentable local players to the entire World.
They quietly ask themselves, what would the World think and say of them after they have gobbled up millions of dollars in FIFA grants annually? Better to hide their shame while continuing to leech onto those players who have been spruced up at great cost by Europeans, and hope that some of the credit will rub off on them…
UEFA and CONMEBOL were initially ambivalent to African, Caribbean, Oceania and Asian confederation members gorging themselves shamelessly with FIFA grants and under-developing their own football in the process because honestly, it made their own product more valuable and the citizens of those countries, tired of their own country’s impotent football leaderships and output, had switched from local football to European football consumption on an unprecedented scale over the last 30 years.
This renewed viewership had the automatic effect of exploding commercial interest from global brands, priced at a premium, and which oiled the European football machinery, where instead of stealing peanuts, football leaders made genuine fortunes from a predictable and well thought out business model.
But as happens often, organizations whose leaderships fall into aristocratic patterns occasionally also fall into the hands of little monsters, just as Germany did in the 1930s or Italy a bit earlier, with Hitler and Mussolini respectively.
In 2016, FIFA fell into the hands of Gianni Infantino who brought with him a tattered corporate culture, a limp moral fortitude and a desire to use FIFA to make himself fantastically rich.
He had an idea, to maintain control of the lower tiers of global football, he personally amended the FIFA Code of Ethics, and got these Member Associations to pass these amendments boisterously at the first FIFA Congress after his election, in Mexico.
The changes in the FIFA Code of Ethics made it virtually impossible for football leaders to be tried domestically for theft of FIFA grants and made this exclusively the purview of the FIFA Ethics committee, with countries suffering pain of suspension from all football activity should local government attempt legal action against FA Presidents and other officials.
He then set about destroying the FIFA Ethics, FIFA Governance and FIFA Audit & Compliance committees, replacing the independent heads with handpicked figureheads.
Then he proposed increasing the annual grants to Member Associations and Confederations exponentially, without any serious built-in mechanisms for control, knowing that these leaders would be drawn to the money as a moth is to flame.
Unable to help themselves, Member Association and Confederation bosses found themselves caught in FIFA Ethics crosshairs for stealing these funds, undergoing audits and many with investigations before the FIFA Ethics committee investigatory chamber.
To Africa and the Caribbean, Infantino dispatched his Congolese henchman and former classmate Veron Mosengo-Omba with a simple message to the FA and Confederation officials, align yourselves with Gianni Infantino, and you will get blanket cover from all your sins.
The second part of the message was ominous, should any of them dare to go against Infantino, none would ever again come anywhere near football for the rest of their miserable lives.
In the process, FIFA created a self-perpetuating cycle where these member associations and confederations felt that it was their right to steal these FIFA grants, knowing that they would be insulated as long as Infantino retains the Presidency.
In Africa, FIFA’s own audit that was carried out in 2019 by giant global audit firm PWC unearthed the outright theft of $24 million by CAF mandarins over a 2 year period.
To date, FIFA has offered no meaningful course of action and the CAF executive continues to gang-rape the confederation before nosily jizzing all over the faces of Africans.
In Trinidad and Tobago, a duly elected executive was ejected early this year, barely 3 months after being elected, and replaced with a normalization committee, for daring to open an investigation into their predecessors who had misappropriated in excess of $2.5 million meant for the construction of a football center.
Initially, UEFA and CONMEBOL had watched this strange mating dance with amusement, a bit like watching someone arrogantly drink poison, claiming that his deity would insulate him from the poisons effect…
Then Infantino and his ambitions now turned to both UEFA and CONMEBOL and attempted to take a bite of their commercial properties, powered by the votes from all these other Member Associations and Confederations, and knowing that he would win the battle for votes at both the FIFA Council and the FIFA Congress.
UEFA and CONMEBOL could not believe just how naïve they had both been to the unfolding situation at FIFA.
It is in these lucid times that a question that was previously taboo has gained prominence, what would happen if there was no FIFA anymore?
What does FIFA own really?
FIFA doesn’t own any stadiums or fields, FIFA doesn’t own any players yet wants to control their trade oblivious to the laws of demand and supply…
FIFA apparently only owns the rights to the greatest sporting show on earth, the quadrennial FIFA World cup, and various other similar 2nd tier competitions.
But who is to say that a similar confederations cup of worthy Nations would not have more appeal and gain better traction globally?
Why should European and South American countries be forced to carry other lower tier countries in this FIFA-induced quota system, which seeks to equalize unequal members of an organization who have clearly shown that they do not any apparent motivation to increase their investment and seriousness about football?
To finish FIFA would only be possible by destroying its top property, the FIFA World Cup and not through its elective organs, already held hostage by people who have enjoyed this merry-go-round for too long, to want to accept any change.
It would not be easy, the FIFA World Cup is intricately tied to geo-politics and National pride and camaraderie especially in the top Nations.
Didn’t we see former UEFA President Michel Platini summoned to the Elysée Palace for lunch with then president Nicolas Sarkozy where he found that he was not the only one invited. Other guests included officials from Qatar, among them crown prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
Nine days later, the gas-rich Gulf state was awarded the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Or the grilling done by the Brazilian Parliament of Ronaldo and his teammates in 1998 after losing that famous final against hosts France, in that World Cup, upon return home.
Now that the 2026 hosting rights have been granted to the USA, Canada and Mexico, it would be very hard to withdraw participation, a move that would cause all manner of interventions at diplomatic and other political levels.
In fact, Infantino and his kitchen-cabinet at FIFA are counting on this fact to help them coast to another term in 2023, safe in the knowledge that whatever UEFA and CONMEBOL chooses to do at this time, withdrawing from the granted World Cups would not be an option.
This is hardly the time to rock this boat, in this manner.
However, this is the time for UEFA and CONMEBOL to announce that they are considering withdrawing from any further FIFA World Cups beginning with the 2030 edition, including the qualifying campaigns.
The duo of UEFA and CONMEBOL could cite corruption, opaque hiring practices, financial unaccountability, sidelining in decision-making, to mention but a few reasons.
Automatically, this would dim the commercial prospects of this bid in every sense of the word, and cause prospective hosts and commercial partners to withdraw their interest in that World Cup.
UEFA and CONMEBOL could also announce a new replacement competition for the period, to stand-in for the missed World Cup, to which participating teams got in by merit and not the ill-informed quota system practiced by FIFA for its World Cup.
In the intervening period, UEFA and CONMEBOL could begin to withdraw from the other FIFA competitions, the age-grade and women’s World Cups.
These unusual steps are simply because it would be impossible to reform FIFA by the vote and common sense of its members, even after FIFA-gate 2015 gave the organization the opportunity for self-reform.
“FIFA is incapable of abiding by its own new anti-corruption structures and needs ‘outside pressure’ to reform” said Miguel Maduro, the sacked former Chairman of the FIFA Governance committee to the British Parliaments culture, media and sport committee in 2017.
However, ‘outside pressure’ as envisaged by Maduro would be quite difficult considering that this would mean seeking the input of European and South American Governments that are themselves prone to deal-making for political expediency or those that would themselves wish to host the FIFA World Cup in future.
Switzerland, where FIFA is domiciled, has faced serious problems trying to open criminal proceedings against FIFA and Infantino, mainly because he has taken and pocketed him the head of Office of Attorney General (OAG) Michael Lauber and a few of his associates.
It is quite telling that Lauber was forced by the Swiss courts to recuse himself from all FIFA investigations and prosecutions and the Swiss Parliament has later moved a motion of no-confidence in him for his opaque and clandestine involvement with Infantino.
Anyone who imagines that they can take their matters to and get a fair shake from the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) in Lausanne is sadly mistaken, granted that FIFA are the biggest funders of the court and FIFA regularly hires some of the courts top individual arbitrators for lucrative side jobs, therefore how would anyone expect to win their case against FIFA when it defines the rules of procedure within this court?
Didn’t we all witness the frustrations wrought upon Liberian Musa Hassan Bility who was contesting the ill-fated FIFA-CAF hostile takeover, and which eventually got him a 10-year suspension from all football activity?
Bility was frustrated by the CAS who would needlessly delay the procedures and allow FIFA ridiculous latitude in its filings and responses to the point that the entire matter became time-barred, forcing Bility to withdraw the case.
He would then be hammered with the FIFA legal costs for his troubles…
Trinidad and Tobago FA (TTFA) President William Wallace, whose executive was unceremoniously ejected and replaced with a Normalization committee also attempted a run at the CAS, erroneously thinking that it is an impartial court.
According to the website www.josimarfootball.com , “FIFA had the statutory right to refuse to pay its own share of the expenses incurred in the instruction of the case. On 11 May, Miguel Liétard Fernandéz-Palacios, FIFA’s director of litigation, informed CAS that it would “not pay its share of advance of costs in this specific procedure”.
This meant that the TTFA found itself faced with a bill for CHF 40,000, an absolute fortune for the cash-strapped organisation, and had to throw in the towel. CAS no longer was key to a positive resolution for the TTFA. FIFA had priced them out of litigation.
It is therefore time for both UEFA and CONMEBOL to take FIFA somewhere they are both uncomfortable and helpless, and not resort to places where it has an upper hand.
The option where the two confederations can negotiate with FIFA to see the exit of Infantino and a reorganization of the entire body is another appealing option, where the World gets to retain its beloved World Cup in return for the political price of seeing the back of Infantino.
This should also be accompanied by a restructure of the political and financial processes in FIFA, to equalize the disbursement of funds in a rational manner and to ensure that all members of FIFA contribute equitably to the development of the global game, if they are to get equitable share of the FIFA resources.
It is time for the World to acknowledge that FIFA has become an ogre, uncontrollable, filthy, corrupt and likely to devour its own members.
Isn’t there an African saying to the effect that “when a Hyena wants to eat its own children, it starts by accusing them of smelling deliciously like goats?”