Friday, 19 April 2013

South Africa v FIFA: Fikile Mbalula, SAFA, SASCOC and match-fixing: what's at stake (plus eNCAnews footage)

WITH South Africa facing serious allegations of match-fixing, FIFA and SAFA are at logger-heads over the way ahead - and Bafana Bafana could pay the price.

Ultimately (see video above, from today's eNCAnews) it comes down to this: South Africa must obey FIFA, deal with the match-fixing report and suspend the relevant SAFA members OR they must defy FIFA, hold a more general government inquiry in to SAFA's affairs and present their conclusions.

Tonight Kirsten Nemetandani, the SAFA President, insists there is no threat of a FIFA suspension but the world football body is KNOWN for taking sweeping action if they do not get their way. South Africa's increasingly promising crusade to reach the World Cup in Brazil next year could be in jeopardy.

It's Bafana Bafana the people care about, not SAFA's suits. And though I generally agree with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, I suspect FIFA's Jerome Valcke - now a South African citizen through marriage - knows certain members of SAFA will get off lightly if the government are involved.

Irvin Khosa, the Orlando Pirates owner who also runs the NSL, PSL and is a vice-president of FIFA, is effectively President Jacob Zuma's father-in-law after the Iron Duke's daughter Sonono gave birth to the polygamous leader's 20th child in 2011. There are reports of a second child since.

Khoza is the major power-player in South Africa sport. He even announced he would stand for the presidency of the South African Olympic organisation SASCOC last year but later withdrew. Though he was not one of five SAFA executives suspended - and subsequently reinstated - after the match-fixing report, his role must come under scrutiny.

Perhaps this is why FIFA don't want the government involved in the SAFA investigation. Or perhaps FIFA simply don't want further dodgy dealings exposed - particularly before, during and after the World Cup. Or maybe they are simply sticking to the old "no government involvement" line.

I have never liked the way FIFA run things. I'd back Fikile over the dictatorial "lifelong" FIFA president Sepp Blatter any day... but there are huge issues at stake. Here's why.

After a letter from FIFA warning Sports Minister Mbalula NOT to get involved in a judicial hearing over their report on the four pre-World Cup friendlies in 2010, a war of words broke out today less than 24 hour after the release of the World Cup 2010 report highlighting the success of South African football.

In line with their general policy, FIFA secretary-general Valcke co-signed the letter warning Mbalula: “Herewith we would like to emphasise that any other issues not related to the above should be handled entirely by Safa, as otherwise this would constitute interference in the internal affairs of Safa affairs by a third party and would clearly violate the principles contained in articles 13 and 17 of the Fifa statutes.”

Today, a "visibly upset" Mbalula fumed: "You do not write such a letter without speaking to a respected government. You speak to people in government and you speak to the minister.

"I will never accept that on behalf of this government. That is denigrating, undermining and they have got no regard for us."

Mbalula said he was "shocked and upset" by what he called "wild assumptions" but the truth is, his reaction will simply push Bafana Bafana - who heard today they will play their crucial away qualifier against the Central African Republic on a neutral ground - towards FIFA suspension and possible World Cup disqualification.

From FIFA's point of view, SAFA simply MUST deal with the match-fixing allegations. But with SASCOC getting involved this week, Mbalula clearly envisages a wider judicial inquiry than that agreed with FIFA 10 days ago. Both he and the Olympian meddler Tubby Reddy want to know why SAFA are currently in R92m debt after hosting both the 2010 World Cup and this year's African Cup of Nations.

They want to know if the R100m FIFA Legacy Fund is safe from pillaging - and what has happened to sponsorship cash.

Generally, I side with Mbalula here. But I doubt if a government-led inquiry will be effective. If FIFA can find a judge prepared to limit his inquiry in to the match-fixing issue alone, I can see REAL action being taken.

That would see many of the current SAFA executives thrown out - leaving the way open for Danny Jordaan, the man behind a hugely successful World Cup, to take over as president in September, when elections are due.

That might just be the best solution - Jordaan would then be able to clean-up SAFA leaving Gordon Igesund to continue the push for World Cup qualification unhindered by suspension and intrigue.
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Here's my original response to FIFA's match fixing report:

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