The Twin Mission – Demystify FIFA And Kill The Monster Of Corruption

Segun OdegbamiTHE crisis in FIFA today has created two important global missions. The first is the demystification of FIFA. The second is killing the virus of corruption that has afflicted the organisation and several of its members worldwide.

The current interventions by the USA and Swiss governments, through the on going investigations into the finances and activities of the organisation, plus the arrests and conviction of some of the Executive Committee members, have largely achieved the first mission.

To Nigerians particularly, this should be a welcome development. People now realize that FIFA is not the untouchable that everyone thought they were.

Beneath the façade of some supreme power, it is now revealed that FIFA is made up of ordinary people with flesh and blood like the rest of us, and are even worse with the revelations of corruption that have brought many of them down on their knees.

So, the fight against corruption is the second but harder mission.

The good news is FIFA has been shown to be all hard shell on the outside but jelly on the inside.

For the first time the world has an opportunity to pry open the monster and see what is inside it and save football from the stranglehold of those that have turned its administration into the carnivorous organism it has become.

So, here in Nigeria I sense an opportunity of the present crisis in FIFA to release my country from the vice that has sustained corruption also in our country’s sports and to eradicate what has destroyed their foundation.
The NFF conditions for FIFA Presidency
This past week I watched a popular morning sports programme on television where three journalists interviewed the President of the Nigeria Football Federation.

In answering the question about the directives his federation had given as conditions for those desirous of contesting for the vacant position of FIFA president in order to be nominated by the Nigeria Football Federation, it was clear to me that he treated the entire exercise without much seriousness.

The NFF had announced bizarre directives unrelated to the election and the journalists did not dig deeper to find out why, the motivation, the consequences, and so on. Probably, like the NFF president, they also did not see the need to.

Several things flashed through my mind in shock, frustration, irritation and eventual excitement.

My shock was that their body language did not indicate they thought both Nigerians, particularly me, had the weight of credentials to contest for the most powerful seat in world football.

My frustration and irritation were because I realised they did not know much also, or had no full appreciation of their own people because of proximity, which does not allow a bird’s eye view that will capture the full array of the people’s activities and accomplishments.

Whatever their reasons for treating the subject matter so lightly and moving on to listen to the president reel out his own achievements even in the few months since he ascended the leadership of the federation, it left me with the bemusement and excitement that there is a new territory to conquer – how to make Nigerians finally start to believe in themselves and what they can do and be.

The President of Nigeria’s Football Federation gave me a little credit by acknowledging my past as a football player. He then went on to give Orji Uzor Kalu a little more credit for his role as a State governor that sponsored a team that set a record of winning the African Club Championship trophy back to back for two years some time ago. All of that was fine.

What was not fine was that those could not definitely be the credentials we intend to present to the world to vote and make either of us the new FIFA president that will reform the organisation and take it into a brighter new era.  FIFA Presidency could not be as cheap as that.

So, if I had any sense whatsoever, if that were all I had to dangle before the world as my credential, then I would be a very foolish man indeed to openly declare that I wanted to be FIFA President. Would I not know that it would take much more than only being an ex-international footballer, worse still of Black African origin, to become FIFA president?

Whereas, I can become the next president, even though I am also aware that only a very few people actually share my optimism, understandably. Most Nigerians would also initially think that the FIFA presidency is too high a mountain for a Nigerian to climb, not to talk of one whose only credential is a career in football that ended some 30 years ago.

In the next few weeks, I shall have the opportunity to tell and show the world the immense contributions my country has made, to tell my story, my place and contributions to football, and why I believe that it is FIFA that needs me more in order to achieve its global dream of becoming the best organisation in the world striving to achieve sport’s ultimate dream – the globalisation of humanity using the awesome power of the beautiful game to drive the process.

So, to Nigerians, I say have faith. Remember how quickly we all forget who we really are and diminish ourselves because we cannot see the bigger picture beyond our immediate horizon.

Let me assure all that if I did not believe absolutely, without an iota of doubt that I deserve to be considered as a possible replacement for Mr. Sepp Blatter, I would never have indicated my interest to succeed him. I am not frivolous to go into a contest I did not think I had any chance to win. That’s what sport taught me – to seize the moment and dare to win.

Sport taught me to be prepared, to work hard, to use the level playing field, fair play, equality, teamwork, universal friendship and peace to achieve my dreams.

Sport drummed it into my psyche that in order to ever win at any contest I must participate first and be prepared to live with the real possibility of not coming first!

Sport taught me that I should not fear losing because to fear it is to succumb to its numbing influence. Failure does not exist but in the mind of those who, unlike those of us fed on the rich diet of the Olympic philosophy, believe that winning means only coming first! No, there is as much honour in participating and giving one’s very best as in winning and coming first.

Think of it, if there are no great participants there would not be great winners! I was weaned in sport on that mantra. I have lived it all my life. I see life, every facet of it, through that prism. That’s why since quitting active football as a player, I have delved into the aspects of life beyond football to make my own contributions to the world.

When I look at them and count them, I feel proud and contented and grateful to my country and country men and women that made all of it possible. No one has the right to diminish them, or discredit them. They are my life’s work, my legacies and the credentials I shall present to the world at the elections to be considered worthy, or not, of becoming the next FIFA president.

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