Photo: Gianni Infantino (Getty Images)
Despite being under criminal investigation and their sponsors threatening to part ways, the eyes of the world now turn its attention to the FIFA elections this Friday. With the world viewing the governing body as a band of men devoid of conscience, moral compass and self-awareness, there is a mountainous task at hand to restore faith and trust to the body’s tarnished reputation. For years and even decades, many have spoken out of corruption within the organization however with the arrests of several top officials, suspicions have now been made into seemless reality.
Appointing a new leader after the resignation and later suspension of one Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter is seen as just one step towards restoring belief in FIFA. Experts and supporters have all made it known that the sports has lost its credibility however, our beautiful game is all about the players and not the administrators. Of course there is a minority within the organization who are happy to have changes however after all that has happened in Switzerland and the Unites States there are still member on the inside who wants nothing to change.
In moving forward, FIFA is expected to reform its structure and to lead the charge Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, South African politician and businessman Tokyo Sexwale, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa of Bahrain and Frenchman Jerome Champagne have submitted their candidacy for the presidency. In almost every competition there are front-runners and as such Infantino and Sheikh Salman are expected to push each other all the way.
Having served as UEFA general secretary since 2009, it seems Infantino is most suited to take up the biggest job in world football. However his association as the right-hand man to disgraced UEFA president Michel Platini, there may be doubts about his credibility and transparency. The Swiss has promised to quintuple the US$250,000 each Federation gets annually and even more millions in other handouts. This is by no means impossible as FIFA is a multibillion-dollar organization with almost the entire revenue generated from World Cups and other FIFA competitions going directly to the governing body. Infantino is supposedly supported by Europe and the Americas and could use their influence to his advantage.
A man who seems to say all the right things, Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa commands the support of Asia and Africa. A member of the royal family in Bahrain, Sheikh Salman is said to have secretly led a campaign to crack down on athletes speaking out in 2011 against the autocratic state. Over a hundred athletes, including national soccer team stars were said to be tortured. The Sheikh has also been on record claiming corruption in football isn’t that bad because it is worst in other sports. He has also stated publicly that he would prefer for the elections to be arranged behind closed doors between power brokers which definitely will not help his case for presidency.
Among the other candidates Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan lost to Blatter in the last elections however he is seen a minority candidate this time around. He has lost most of his support as many believe he is not suited for the position having failed to even put up a fight against Blatter. Imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela during the struggle against Apartheid, Tokyo Sexwale has failed to gain the trust and backing of his own continent. He was accused of plotting a coup against President Thabo Mbeki. He is not expected to make much of an impact on the race however it will be fascinating to see what sort of result he gets at the end. Frenchman Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA insider is said to be a man who has written more manifestos than the number of votes he’s expected to garner.
The moment of truth has come and in just over 24 hours there will be a new FIFA president and the mission to restore the body’s reputation will begin. There are still a lot more questions than answers however whoever gets the responsibility will definitely have one of the most difficult task in the world of sports.