Sunday November 3, 2013
Sheriff S Folarin
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 08094217972 (SMS only)
ip service, that’s how best to describe the so-called anti-racism campaign of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA). The FIFA campaigns have been on for years now. The anti-racism stance sounds harder and seems harsher in principle. But these days, there are more frequent and intensified monkey chants and banana-throwing incidents targeted at African players, cat-calls on some Asian and South American footballers, and the pitchscenes of harsh referee decisions against African teams. The more the racist chants, the more outspoken FIFA has been against it; and yet the harder FIFA seems to come, the louder and more frequent the racist shows on and off the soccer pitches.
Sadly, the racist incidents have not excluded any particular player with coloured skin. The festering racist sentiments have had at the receiving end, big soccer stars of African descent on the big stage as well. Roberto Carlos of Brazil has had bananas thrown at him on a couple of occasions while playing for his Anzhi club in Russia. Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon fled Barcelona in Spain for Russia because of persistent persecution by racist fans and club officials, but turned out to have had more racist acts against him in his new Russian base, until he sought succour in Chelsea, England. Ghanaian former AC Milan playmaker, Kevin Prince-Boateng was shell-shocked and burst into tears in anger to see Roma FC fans throwing bananas at him in an away match sometime last year. Last season, after a UEFA Champions League away match, which Chelsea lost, Nigeria’s potential 2013 African Player of
The FIFA ‘Fair Play’ hoax
the Year, Mikel Obi was almost in tears to see his social media profiles inundated with all sorts of racist abuse by his own home fans for his error in goal against his club. He had to close all his facebook and twitter accounts after that ugly episode. Just last week, Yaya Toure was racially abused in Russia in a UEFA Champions League encounter against CSKA Moscow. The list can go on. However, aside these spectator stands racist charges, is also the callous refereeing targeted at African teams or teams with African players, or black players in a foreign team or club. At Italia 90, Cameroon was on a crushing mission on their way to winning the World Cup until a referee sunk them in the quarterfinal by two undeserved and controversial penalty kick giveaways to England, to progress ahead of the Africans. That same Cameroonian team had earlier suffered two straight red cards in the World Cup opening match against defending champions, Argentina in what appeared like a conspiracy to open an equalizer window for the Maradona-led side after one of the Biyick brothers had opened the goals scoreboard at the FIFA mundial. It did not however work as Cameroon beat Argentina and made history as the first country from the black continent to beat a defending champion and in on the biggest stage. Four years after, another referee was sent packing from the World Cup for very poor (racist) officiating against Nigeria in a match against Maradona-led Argentina in a group match. Nigeria’s history-making feat was aborted in the second round of that USA ’94 when another racist referee gave Italy a clear chance to edge out the African Champions by a clearly undeserved penalty. At the 2005 Under-21 World Cup, Nigeria’s Flying Eagles’ hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time was scuttled by two dubious penalties (one per half) awarded to Lionel Messi’s Argentina to edge out the Africans from making that feat. Aside the open and clear cases of rob-
bery by FIFA-badged referees, some of them top FIFA umpires, there have also been cases of undermining and undervaluing African players by foreign clubsides. The European leagues play down the value of Africa’s best while their misfit or equivalent European or South American counterparts are overpriced. Players from Africa in the European leagues earn far less than what their relatively underperforming colleagues earn. The players also sparingly experience league matches as they warm up the reserve benches most of the time. Yet, these are the same players that return home to get the job done for their countries at crucial continental and World Cup encounters. Also when the transfer window opens, the best African legs are the more likely ones to be sold or loaned out cheaply or freely in some cases. All of these racial injustices and inequalities happen right under FIFA’s nose. In fact, the FIFA statute books, which also underlie the UEFA regulations, uphold these racist agenda. When FIFA makes representation at the World Cup unequal, having just five nations from Africa that has the highest number of member-nations of 54 in the world body, what message or signal is FIFA passing across to the nonAfrican soccer stakeholders? Europe has 53 states in FIFA, and yet sends as many as 15-19 countries to the mundial. The disparity between 5 and 19 is similar to the distance between the earth and the moon. Why will Europe not be winning the World Cup more than anyone else? If not for the undeniable expertise of Brazil and the fact that a Brazilian was at the helms of affairs at FIFA for decades, how would a South American team have had the opportunity of winning, or having the highest number of wins in the Cup history? After Nigeria’s victory in 1985, several multinational sponsors of the Under-17 (then Under-16) World Cup backed out as they considered an African team winning the maiden edition as a huge waste of their investment at that level. In the Ball’on ‘Dor
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(World Player of the Year) award, only George Weah of Liberia has managed to win it. After that feat, FIFA has not repeated that mistake again, despite the emergence of more George Weahs in persons like Eto’o, Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Rashidi Yekini, Didier Drogba, Abedi Pele Ayew, or Roger Milla, who should have won it in 1990 or 1991 for being the oldest footballer ever to play in the World Cup and to have tucked in so much of goals in the net at such biggest stage of soccer. In this year’s selection, names of African players who deserve to be listed for their exploits between last year and now, such as John Obi Mikel, Didier Drogba and Victor Moses are conspicuously missing. These ones are missing because they will be strong contenders with the European and South American players who have been generously listed. Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure’s name is listed because he is a very weak contender and will be easily voted out in the second round of screening. What does that look like? Fair play? FIFA should stop brandishing the fair play banners and message on or off the pitch because they are not sincere about it. The administrators in Zurich, their officials on the pitch are human like the fans that make racist jeers. They have their emotions too. They have their sentiments too. They have colour prejudice too. And they exhibit it consciously or unconsciously by their words, attitude and actions. While I commend the FIFA President, Sepp Blatter for making the bold statement that Africa was grossly and unfairly underrepresented at the World Cup, I call on him to persistently sing this new song and to have several anti-racist elements at FIFA chorus it along with him until fair play, in all aspects of the game, comes home to roost. •Dr. Folarin is the Head of Department of Political Science and International Relations at Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria.
A minister’s fraud and non-accountability syndrome HANNATU MUSAWA
part from the outrage most felt at the tenacious sit-tight attitude of the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, after our numerous air mishaps under her tutelage, the recent expose of the outrageous purchase of bullet proof cars with public funds for the Minister is quite simply an affront to the sensibilities of Nigerians. With this latest scandal plaguing the Aviation Minister, together with so many other cases of venality in government, if anyone was in doubt as to whether the government was losing its war against corruption, they best be advised to take back their benefit of doubt and be rest assured that the folks behind the rock are continuing to do their best down that greasy path of corruption, ultimately dismantling Democracy.
Looking at just this saga with Mrs. Oduah, it is no wonder that Nigeria still rates towards the bottom of the global corruption barometer. When an official, who is in the annals of government exercises the systematic convention of organised and endemic corruption, while showing
no mind for any accountability, it stands to reason why we are still far from a wellfunctioning society with secure peace and sustainable development. And it’s not so much about the fact that the Minister was allegedly caught with her hand in the cookie jar or about the fact that she seems absolutely inept in overseeing the duty of which she has been unsuitably awarded, it’s more about the symbolism her seemingly haughty continuance in office represents where she appears not to take accountability, despite all the scandal surrounding her and the slapdash manner in which she is crippling the sector which she oversees. This business in Nigeria where no one feels the need to take accountability for their actions and where no government official takes responsibility when they do wrong or when things under their guidance go awry is just no good business at all. And no matter how we cut it, if one really thinks about it, at the root of Nigeria’s problems is a deep lack of accountability. And with that lack of accountability and responsibility come the lack of conse-
quences and sanctions for bad behavior. And with the lack of consequences and sanctions for bad behavior comes a free for all that gives way to the dangerous combustible combination we are seeing today in this country. The problem of our lack of accountability isn’t necessarily because the legal framework for accountability does not exist. After all, was accountability not the reason for the set-up of the EFCC and the ICPC? Was it not for the purpose of sanctioning wrongdoing that the Oputa panel was conducted? The laws are there, the courts are there to correct all the anomalies in the system, but the real problem is that our leadership seems unwilling to fight corruption and to tackle the panicky accountability issue. And even the bodies that have been established to fight corruption and force government officials to be accountable basically lack the directive, powers and resources to combat graft, because as a society we have developed a syndrome where no one takes accountability for anything. Despite the fact that every one of us in
this country, at some stage, probably has to take responsibility for our countries decay, the lion’s share of the blame resides with the government. But, as far as the government is concerned, lack of accountability is an integral part of their existence and operations. In other civilized societies, it is not uncommon for government officials to resign when a mistake has been made within the organization or sector which they head, even if that mistake wasn’t in anyway their fault. However this is not the case in Nigeria. Our environment has deteriorated to its present state precisely because no one takes accountability for their wrongdoing and government hardly ever accepts responsibility for its mistakes. There have been so few prosecutions, criminal proceedings or other serious consequences and punishment of misdeeds, especially as it relates to issues of corruption and the misuse of public resources. For the few that have been caught red-handed and prosecuted, often times, they are brought back after a short hiatus to become the darlings of the government. *Musawa is a social commentator