FIFA Presidency – I Dare To Dream!

Segun OdegbamiI have a message for the world. I want to become the next President of FIFA. Why? To start with, the position is vacant. The election to fill the position will take place on February 26, 2016. Secondly, there are electoral guidelines that state who can contest and who cannot. I fulfill all the requirements to contest and more.

So, why not, even if I know quite clearly that I shall be an initial underdog. That I am an African and a Nigerian for that matter, all may not count in my favour. Blacks are never considered first in such things.

They are only usually seen as making up the numbers, adding some colour and leaving the winning to others, unless, of course, the elements join in the universal conspiracy to make them defeat the odds and win (sometimes).

Then, I am neither rich nor politically powerful, twin instruments that come in handy during ordinary elections within the existing structure of things.  But these are no ordinary times nor is the election itself going to be ordinary.

So, having said all of that, what are my chances? As we set sail into this adventurous journey my chances may look bleak, yet I am throwing my hat into the ring and rearing to go.

Not to do so would mean a great dis-service to ‘the beautiful game’, the one that made me, that gave me fame and some fortune, and is now being threatened with the tar of corruption inside FIFA.

There are two sides to FIFA. There is the technical side (on the field of play) and the administrative side (in the boardroom). On the field there is nothing wrong with the game.

Indeed, the standard of the game has risen steadily through the years with better fields to play on, better tools to use, and higher levels of officiating the game to make for fair play and terrific competitions.

Every successive leadership of FIFA has ensured the sanctity of the game. The process of changing any rule of the game is so stringent that only very few have ever been done since inception! In the board room the story is different.

Investigations into the activities of FIFA and its executive members have revealed shoddy and shady deals of monumental dimension that have badly dented the image of the organisation and brought into question the integrity of its leadership and activities. Fundamentally, the present crisis in the organisation is about how the money from football is made and how it is spent.

That’s where the world is at the moment – looking for a leadership with the character to rebuild global confidence, to repair the battered image of the organisation and to restore its integrity. Like the game of football itself, the requirements to contest for the elections are clear and simple. So, the world is monitoring very closely the process of the election that will usher in the right leader. That is the only way the confidence of the major sponsors that oil FIFA’s administrative machinery and provide its monumental fortune can be restored.

That’s why I can even hope that because the eyes of the entire world will be honed on the process of the election my initial slim chance will increase a notch.

But what really are the issues confronting FIFA? It is the control and distribution of its massive resources that is at the heart of the present crisis. The present system has created ‘loopholes’ that are being exploited by greedy corrupt officials to milk the organisation. Through the dispensing of favours, including placements in strategic FIFA committees, greedy members are kept in check, happy and silent.

FIFA ensures that the independence of individual members is eroded through block voting during critical decision-making times. Those that do not fall in line and demonstrate their loyalty are punished.

The reality is that an unofficial ‘cartel’ was created that aided and abetted corrupt practices. And in the absence of any system that conducts integrity checks on major decisions that influence the choice of country that hosts the World Cup, for example, corruption thrives and a dictatorship is perpetuated in compensation.

That’s why the world must feel sorry for, rather than condemn, Mr. Sepp Blatter. He became the victim of his own absolute power. FIFA became a haven for dispensing favours, building loyalties, sustaining self-perpetuation in office, and keeping a cartel happy.

Until the bubble burst and FIFA found itself naked in the sun. There is a general need to cleanse the system, to introduce checks and balances, to effect a power shift from the concentration of all power in one individual to a system that ensures that the president does not remain in power forever, and that football’s resources are deployed to impact the world a lot more.

It is that simple – transparency in its organisation, democracy and equity in the process of decision making, and independence of the individual members. The world has an opportunity now to change FIFA for good and bring an end to the era of dictatorship and corruption fueled by greed and the struggle for power.

The world must understand the problems and their source, and be determined to start afresh and restore football’s innocence, its essence as a tool to cement friendships, to promote peace, to provide opportunities for the poor and the rich alike, to make ordinary folks to dream and achieve their dreams, to serve good purposes around the world, to promote equality amongst all men, to instill the spirit of fair play, to teach the world that it is not only the team that carts away the trophy that wins, to reach the youths of the world with messages that promote the globalisation of humanity, to use football to stop conflicts, to support the poor nations of the world and to eliminate dictatorship.

We must introduce a term limit for the FIFA president and set new standards and more equitable ways of determining hosts of the World Cup. Who FIFA needs now is a man of impeccable conduct and character, a man of ideas, one with credentials embedded in the rich culture and traditions of football.

Meanwhile, where would I get the resources to run this race? My resources are all around me. They are the voices of the teeming masses of the global community of followers of the beautiful game praying and wishing me well, waiting anxiously to see a new and better course for football around the world. So, I dare to dream the possibility and will run, no matter what happens in the end!

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