By Paul Nicholson
July 18 – With the Confederation of African Football (CAF) set to cede control of its affairs to FIFA and its ‘delegate for Africa, FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura, a former FIFA employee and candidate for a CAF position on FIFA’s Council, Zelkifi R Ngoufonia (Zul), has written a hard hitting letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
While the letter congratulates him and welcomes him to African football, it also asks big questions of the FIFA boss and his regime, warning him that not all Africans can so easily be bought as the current administrators who dutifully passed over the confederation to FIFA’s management.
Championing Africans, Zul says: “…let me assure you that this continent is full of brains, ones that are not attracted by promises for more money and forward funds (FIFA Forward grant aid); this continent is full of individuals who truly care about its development and growth, and maybe you should take a minute of your busy schedule to meet with them…”
Questioning Infantino’s motivations, what he terms as his ‘disrespect’ of Africans, and his presidential record to date in Africa, he says: “Mr President, you owe Africa better than you have served it so far. Mr President, while I understand your need to strengthen your voting base on the continent, you can’t continue to do that in a way that disrespects the people of this continent. You can’t do that by continuing to turn a blind eye on allegations of misappropriation of football funds, you can’t do that by continuing to have a FIFA that is selective in investigating those allegations.”
Use of FIFA’s Ethics process to remove unwanted or dissenting voices has become a hallmark of the Infantino regime. The non-use and the manipulation of the integrity of the Ethics process has been the Infantino’s regime’s way of protecting his biggest supporters – whatever they have been accused of. The sexual harassment allegations against CAF president Ahmad, coupled with the multiple corruption charges against him, are the highest profile system of FIFA’s inept, manipulated and corrupted Ethics function.
It is a position that is a miserably long way from the expectation of FIFA’s rank and file and doubtless the US department of justice that lifted the lid on FIFA corruption only to have it replaced with a regime that is politically more manipulative, less transparent and significantly more bullying in nature than the one it replaced.
That bullying is evident in the way that FIFA wields is grant money. Zul references the morality of this saying: “Mr President, how could FIFA be clean when some of the football associations in Africa present to your administration invoices for paid goods that they have actually not paid for, and your administration in charge of controlling the distribution and management of FIFA FORWARD funds decide they won’t look further into it or take action because it is an internal affair of said football association? FIFA’s funds have continuously been used to serve the pockets of those managing football associations but FIFA will not ask too much about it because it could affect the outcome of the votes when time comes.
Zul goes deeper into the allocation of grant funds and questions whether FIFA’s own rules are being followed and the competence of FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura to solve the situation, one that she was complicit in creating. He also makes the stunning revelation that CAF’s finance committee has not met for two years.
“Mr President it is not a secret that CAF has not had a meeting of its finance committee in two years, nor is it a secret that no financial statement has been presented to congress for approval in two years, and yet CAF was able to access FIFA’s FORWARD funds. Is this a breach of FORWARD regulations? How exactly did CAF manage to gain access to those funds? Is this the practice of other confederations? …Is it a fair analysis to consider that by facilitating CAF access to FORWARD funds, FIFA became an accomplice of CAF and encouraged the disrespect of rules and regulations? If the FIFA secretary general in her role at FIFA couldn’t prevent this from happening, how effective will she be in addressing these challenges in her role as “Delegate General”?”
Zul concludes his letter asking Infantino to do the right thing.
“Mr President do the RIGHT THING and:
- Stop protecting those who are shaming the game of football for it makes you lose credibility
- Encourage FIFA to fast-track investigations on allegations received by the FIFA ethics committee, it makes you credible.
- Help football associations to be professionally managed,
- Provide access to FIFA FORWARD funds to all who meet the criteria and develop
programmes to help those who fail to meet the criteria. Funds are for all
- The right thing is to capitalise on the urge of FIFA to support CAF, by asking FIFA to
speed up with the investigations that they themselves confirmed they were conducting.”
Infantino has been something of a minister without portfolio as he has wondered the football world trying to win dominating influence in the real source of football power at confederation level. He failed abysmally in the key continents of Asia and Europe. He has the unwavering support of Concacaf who can be a significant powerbroker but will unlikely be an unquestioning one. In contrast Conmebol and the OFC are compliant minnows. However, he now has Africa and that continent’s football in a vice-like grip that no other FIFA president before him has had.
Good for him. Good for Africa? Probably for some people, though they should be careful of their dollar transactions.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org