Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

Duro Ikhazuagbe
Friday in Zurich, Switzerland, FIFA’s 209 member national associations (FAs) are going to vote in a poll on who to replace former Swiss army colonel, Joseph S. Blatter as new FIFA president.
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, is among those to elect the new football supremo today. He is in Zurich with NFF’s 1st Vice President, Seyi Akinwunmi and General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi who are also attending the Congress.

Each of the 209 FAs has a single vote on the choice of who to replace Blatter whose policies favoured mostly members from developing economies. Apart from ensuring Africa hosted the World Cup for the first time in 2010, Blatter got more slots for the continent at the four-yearly football fiesta. His Goal Project ensured enough cash for the development of the game in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The voting which is going to be the highlight of the Congress, aimed at repositioning the scandal-rocked world football governing body is a straight contest between five men namely: Gianni Infantino (Switzerland), Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa (Bahrain), Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein (Jordan), Jerome Champagne (France), and Tokyo Sexwale (South Africa).

On paper, Infantino, the Swiss general secretary of European governing body UEFA, and Asian soccer President, Sheikh Al Khalifa appear the favourites in this contest. Of course, the disqualification of Michel Platini, the likeable UEFA chief threw the race open. Platini was the ‘anointed’ candidate to replace Blatter before both men were slammed with six-year ban each for what FIFA’s Ethics Committee called breach of ethics in the payment of $2.79million ‘consultancy fee’ paid by Blatter to the former legend of the game. Not even the Jordanian prince who polled 70 votes against Blatter June last year stands a better chance to upset the duo of Infantino and Sheikh Al Khalifa.

In Platini’s absence, Infantino, 45, is expected to enjoy the support from the European bloc, and sympathy from a few other places. Whether that will be enough for him to swing the pendulum in his favour remains a matter to be seen at the end of voting today.

Prince Al Hussein’s quest to ensure transparency at the poll fell flat on Wednesday evening when Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) threw out his request to compel FIFA to use transparent booths for the Presidential election today. Part of his argument was that it was going to prevent members of the confederates who have entered into alliance with one of the candidates to take photographs of their ballot papers to show that they stayed with the deal.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) is one of such blocs that have aligned with the aspiration of the Asian football President, Sheikh Al Khalifa. Africa has 54-member FAs. It is however doubtful whether majority of this number are going to comply with the agreement reach with Al Khalifa in Kigali, Rwanda last month.

For instance, South Africa and other countries in the COSAFA axis that are sympathetic to the cause of Sexwale are certainly going to back out of whatever deal CAF reached with their Asia partners. Liberia FA boss, Musa Bility who last November was disqualified from contesting today’s poll because FIFA said he “failed an integrity check” (whatever that means, is leading the campaign for Prince Al Hussein.

Bility told Reuters yesterday that “I’m sure of 27 votes for Ali (Al Hussein) from CAF and (Swiss candidate) Gianni (Infantino) is making a very good effort in Africa, his people are here,” Bility revealed late yesterday.
Despite openly contradicting CAF, Bility said he did not fear reprisals.”So far nobody has come to me to say, ‘why are you doing this’?” he added. “You just have to be strong and do good work in your federation because this is where your power is. If you don’t do that then you have to depend on people to protect you.”
Bility added he did not want aid cash from FIFA.

“We don’t want money to be given to us like that every year, we want a system just like Europe where every nation will have a league which creates funding for them,” he explained.
“Africa has huge companies, they have massive investments. CAF needs to have a relationship with corporations to create leagues in Africa that allow players to play at a professional level and make money on the continent,” concludes the Liberian.

World soccer was plunged into crisis last year after several dozen officials were indicted for corruption in the United States and a criminal investigation was begun in Switzerland.
Blatter, whose 18-year tenure officially ends this week lost his appeal against an eight-year ban for ethics violations, although the 79-year-old’s ban was reduced to six years.