Wednesday 30 June 2010

Nigeria: Questioning the FIFA hegemony

Questioning the FIFA hegemony
One begins to wonder about the clout and the power the world’s football governing body, FIFA [1], and its dogged determination not to brook any interference of national governments in football administration.
A number of events have shown that this FIFA stance has to be at least negotiable and ideally questionable. Indeed, there are instances where football associations need to be protected from political interference and the nations sanctioned for undue process but where player safety, the national interest or honour is at stake, FIFA’s desires have to be secondary.
Safety above rules
When at the African Nations’ Cup the Togolese team was attacked [2] by insurgents in the Cabinda region of the Angola, the basic fact that lives were lost was of overwhelming concern to the Togolese government that players and the national football association were overruled with the team being withdrawn from the competition.
FIFA took a rather draconian stance of suspending Togo from all international competitions which to the fair-minded was unjust the rules notwithstanding. The Togolese government and FIFA have come to some arrangement but more interestingly were the comments Emmanual Adebayor of Togo made [3] about the Togolese Football Association that had received tickets for air travel but decided to travel by road leading to the unfortunate incident.
FIFA is no good cop
Whilst FIFA has been unforgiving of government interference there is no evidence of FIFA coming down heavily on the corruption within football associations nor does it seem they have the wherewithal to ensure that football associations do not create situations that call for immediate and drastic interference from their home governments.
With the World Cup underway, the French team displayed conduct [4] so unbecoming and shocking beyond words, nothing has been heard from FIFA as regards how the game had been brought into disrepute by these players on a global stage at their premier event.
Rather FIFA has been threatening [5] the French government about perceived interference but really where the honour of a country had been impacted by shameful representation it is only right for the representatives of the people who constitute the government to get to the bottom of why this disgraceful behaviour came about if FIFA cannot effectively manage the conduct of players.
The case for political interference is just too compelling as it brings to question how democratic football associations really are, who they are accountable to and to what extent is FIFA accountable to any higher constituted body representative of global interests.
In the national interest
Today in the news, the Nigerian President suspended the national team [6] from international competitions for two years and in the process is planning a complete overhaul of the football organisational structure in Nigeria.
Surely, every country and their elected or governing representation should have pre-eminence over how their country is represented, by whom and for what purposes. If the country decides that their sporting representatives are not of the quality that can do the nation proud, surely, it should be the prerogative of that country to choose not to be represented and present at global tournaments.
FIFA is no role model
I have not seen any sense of moral, ethical or commendable standard that allows FIFA to seek overarching protection of non-performing football associations if FIFA itself cannot impose rules of operation that compel the associations to be transparent, incorruptible, properly run and genuinely serving of the national interests they are supposed to represent.
FIFA appears to be a law unto itself, supported by patronage and tribal allegiances, sustained by global conglomerate sponsorships predicated in FIFA’s world-wide reach almost to the exclusion of local business and local partnerships in countries that host their events.
It is untenable that FIFA can by its clout not drawn from any virtuous conduct dictate carte blanche and exude such authority as to cow national political representatives when they are desirous of having better organisations and representations of football in their countries.
Now is the time to limit the remit and ambit of FIFA when the national honour and interest is demonstrably at stake, no FIFA rule or stance should have pre-eminence over that situation – ever.

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