fifa-africa

FIFA and Africa: In the second half of the 20th Century Africa entered a period of decolonisation, gaining independence from Western rule. As they integrated into a global society, they joined transnational bodies like the UN – increasing their presence on the world stage. Part of this process saw nations from the great continent join FIFA. And by the ‘60s, they accounted for nearly half of its member states.

This greater representation didn’t necessarily translate to more authority. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) was formed in 1954 and it took 16 years for one of their members to represent them at the most prestigious of contests, the World Cup. Morocco’s involvement at Mexico 1970 set the precedent and from then Africa’s sovereignty over its most popular sport grew.

 

FIFA’s ultra-democratic one-vote-per-member election system

The confederation had a heavy hand in political decision-making. Brazilian João Havelange’s 1974 presidential bid was secured through CAF backing, increasing Europe’s power struggle at the very top. In 1998 when FIFA’s general secretary, Sepp Blatter claimed his throne at the highest echelon of football rule, there was a turn in the tide, for the better. Under the 17 years of his kleptocratic reign, development aid to Asia, CAF and CONCACAF increased by over 70 per cent. Factor in increase in FIFA revenue and the number member states, that’s still a colossal amount.

FIFA’s ultra-democratic one-vote-per-member election system

FIFA provide each of its members $250,000 annually as a basic means to improve infrastructure. This feeds technical centres, youth academies and necessities like football pitches. The Goal project is their flagship medium through which they provide this opportunity for development. Not only does it help improve the game from the ground up, it gives countries a base from which to work – through headquarters for football associations.

Win In Africa With Africa (WIAWA) was a programme launched by football’s governing body in 2006, with a financial arsenal of $38m and a view to bring artificial pitches to every corner of the continent. This scheme was of particular help to Djibouti who had deplorable pitch conditions. Conditions so bad it resulted in them losing their power to vote at congress. The FIFA code of practice states members cannot exercise this right if a team does not participate in a tournament or qualifiers for at least two years.

That they do salvage these most fundamental rights through a commitment to programmes like WIAWA should be considered a blessing. And in the most desperate of cases they are the solitary source shouldering financial burdens for football associations. In the past, the Ugandan government never directed any funds to maintaining the sport and so sustaining the game in the country was FIFA’s responsibility.

Such responsibilities have recently been made easier with a $1.5bn swelling in their reserves. With a well of that depth, it’s easy to provide for their members, especially ones where money is comparatively scarce; creating a dichotomy of how much they are actually helping with their handouts. Although their published accounts label what spending went where, it’s merely a detailed illustration of what they believe to be their charitable work.

It’s structured to the extent of the agreement made between themselves and the football association but dissolves beyond that. There isn’t a thorough implementation, they leave that up to their benefactors. That can create a culture of complacency when delivering their intended goal.

President of Kenya’s FA, Sammy Obingo, for example, created false expenses of up to $100,000 to siphon into his own account. FIFA inadvertently provide the chance to embezzle funds. Funds that should otherwise witness the realisation of dreams. The extent of the damage drills further deeper. Pumping money into these FAs only plasters the cracks. Since 2010, Kenya have been given over $2m in grants but fallen down nearly ten in world rankings.

Over three phases, since 2004, the Kenyan FA has received over $1.5m towards the Goal project. Nearly a third of that was put towards Kandanda House, what was meant to be their headquarters. A point from which they could preside over a successful investment – through training referees, coaches and youth teams. The building was left abandoned and remained a reminder of misplaced finances and trust.

In Zambia, outside Football House in the capital Lusaka, a placard reads as a tombstone of FAZ’s (Football Association of Zambia) debt to Sepp Blatter. Again this building remains another false promise. Meant to function as a technical centre for the national team, it remains a ghost of the hub it should have been. As The Guardian’s David Smith mentions, the senior team cannot stay there and have to make camp in hotels. The misappropriation of funds results in yet more unnecessary expenses to FAZ because they failed to use what was given to them.

 

FIFA and Africa: The latest Goal project in Zambia

It is worth $400,000 was approved five years ago but hasn’t taken a single step towards reality. The original site in the town of Kitwe was scrapped because of disagreements with the new local council over cost of the 10 acre piece of land.

FIFA and Africa

The small, nearby town of Luanshya served as the alternative. Work is yet to begin on the project because the proposed site currently has crops growing on it; forcing contractors to wait through the harvest. It’s ridiculous to think an industry and market has been diminished because of such a disarray in planning.

Tangible results of sustained, progressive growth on African soil aren’t nearly as forthcoming as the investments made in them should suggest. The game domestically hasn’t developed into a structure resembling European models, there hasn’t even been a pronounced increase in the quality of players produced since the turn of the century.

 

Twice falling short of the semi-finals at the World Cup

FIFA and Africa1

In many respects, don’t carry the same weight as Stephen Keshi’s 2013 AFCON-winning Nigeria; there isn’t an emphasis placed on sourcing young talent from the homelands. Whether that is through lack of development within Africa (which is a can be construed as a poor excuse) or because all the best talent is poached from overseas clubs, there remains no incentive specifically for players to stay and play at home.

In the long run, it’s only to the detriment of the elite level players. That furthers this culture of reliance and expectance of aid. Even with the financial capacity of FIFA, who’s to say things will remain the same now that Sepp Blatter’s resigned?

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