He never had a chance but just getting on to the ballot was enough. Zelkifili Ngoufonja (the candidate known as Zul) was beaten 54 votes to 4 by Egypt FA president Hany Abu Rida for the last position on FIFA’s Council. But if there ever was a victory that showed up the deep flaws of FIFA’s easily corruptible and barely governed election system (and the Confederation of African Football’s in particular) then this was it.
Doubtless Abu Rida believes he won a great victory. But at what cost? Both to him personally and the Egyptian FA in terms of money, but also the cost to the wider integrity of football in Africa and on to FIFA. An integrity that, as in any organisation, takes its leadership from the very top – FIFA president Gianni Infantino himself. Don’t forget this is a reforming organisation with multi-million dollar lawyers, investigators, independence gurus and public prosecutors crawling all over it. Clearly all of them with their eyes closed until it comes to the pay cheque.
Zul realistically never had a chance, and he and everyone else knew it. With Abu Rida having gathered more than 30 African presidents in Cairo to celebrate new CAF president Ahmed Ahmed’s ascension to the throne, and then having entertained and flown them all by private jet to Bahrain for their Congress, who else were they realistically going to vote for.
But it wasn’t just the electioneering, the process of this election was stacked against him from the start.
Zul first battled against being told he hadn’t admitted his candidacy in time. Postal receipts proved he had. He was then told that Cameroon had withdrawn their proposal for his candidacy but did so too late for him to be forced to withdraw from the election. Then there was the matter of the eligibility test of which he was only informed on Friday he was clear to stand in Monday’s election, but with strings attached.
Come the Monday election Zul was left as the only challenger to Abu Rida. Samir Sobha from Mauritius pulled out as did CAF executive member Leodgar Tenga from Tanzania who decided not to stand after speaking with other federation presidents from his region.
Zul wasn’t letting CAF off the hook so easily. And he was easily beaten, but not without having shamed and shined a light on the organisation.
“I wanted to give my generation the knowledge that they can step forward,” said Zul, who at 39 would have been the youngest member on the FIFA Council. “I am proud and happy (that I still stood) and that I asked them to examine their consciences and question whether they are doing the right thing.
“Many (African federation presidents) have come and spoken to me… there are many principled people who have stood by my side and have said that this (the election) was always a done deal and not to do with me or my abilities. That’s what the game and I accept that. Now I look forward to the future. I will go back to hurting and supporting Arsenal and the Cameroon national team.”
Associated stories: http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2017/05/07/abu-rida-calls-african-presidents-cairo-celebration-lobbying-private-jet-ride/
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