Monday, 22 February 2016

SEXWALE'S FIFA PRESIDENTIAL BID: Even an earth-quake won't save Tokyo on Friday

Just good friends: Blatter and Sexwale
SOUTH AFRICAN FOOTBALL will receive yet another wake-up call on Friday in Zurich. That’s when Tokyo Sexwale, despite his post-1994 millions and impeccable anti-Apartheid credentials, will embarrass the Rainbow Nation at the FIFA presidential elections.

The latest? Reports of a visit to Robben Island with Sexwale escorting rival - and one of the favourites - Gianni Infantino around his old prison off Cape Town. It's a curious game he's playing.

It's tempting to call the hastily-arranged trip a "get out of jail free card" and it may lead to Sexwale backing out of the race and telling his supporters - if there are any - to back Infantino.

Apparently Sexwale invited the other three presidential candidates too... but they were "too busy" to make the short boat trip to a grim little island offering world-wide recognition.

It’s not as if such last-minute, chaotic scenarios are rare in South African football. Having gained one point at AFCON 2015 and facing non-qualification for AFCON 2017, we should be asking serious questions about our national coach Shakes Mashaba.

Just last week I was told the story of an agent with close links to Mashaba offering an NFD goalkeeper “an automatic spot in the Rio Olympic squad” if he signed over his life.

We could wake up and ask about how the PSL can let an historic club like Moroka Swallows crumble in to nothing. Or we could arise from our slumbers and question the complete lack of crowd figures, the dodgy refs and the failure in CAF competitions too.

But SAFA, with their president doubling as the mayor of Port Elizabeth, will not act. We’ll go in to the World Cup qualifying draw after AFCON failure with Mashaba and his so-called Technical Director Neil Tovey still whittering on about “needing 4 points against Cameroon” when everyone knows we need six.

But what are we to expect? This is the same SAFA who endorsed Sexwale’s presidential bid. Their Communications Director called himself “SexwaleFan” on twitter for a few weeks, everyone flew out to the Balon D’Or and paraded about with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, spending millions on a few publicity shots.

But within a fortnight, the grand scenario of an African head of football was collapsing. Dominic Sexwale got rid of his twitter handle and told us: “We are worried about Sexwale’s lacklustre campaign, he doesn’t follow advice”.

CAF, with their president Issa Hayatou doubling as interim FIFA president, decided to back the highly-questionable Sheikh Salman and even SAFA were questioning the wisdom of supporting the only African candidate. The  governing ANC, unsure of how this all works, are apparently insisting SAFA vote for Sexwale. Or is that just Mbalula talking through his wallet?

Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, three of the five nominees needed to get Tokyo to the starting line, have all expressed doubts about Sexwale’s campaign, which centred on international shirt sponsorship and voting deals with foreign power blocs. No mention of corruption. 

On Friday, Sepp Blatter won’t be standing for the first time in 22 years. Michel Platini, originally the natural successor, and the oily Jerome Valcke - who has South African citizenship and joint-control of our World Cup legacy fund - will be absent too. All three are banned from football activities by the shadowy ethics committee in the wake of the FBI’s exposure of FIFA’s corruption.

This “emergency election” offers little in the way of hope. It’s simply an attempt to stop football’s deeply-corrupt governing body from crumbling to dust with controversial World Cups in Russia and Qatar coming up.

Incredibly, Sexwale has managed to make himself the rank outsider among five candidates in a matter of weeks, Officially, the odds put him at 66-1 but in truth he’ll be lucky to pull more than two or three crosses next to his oft-mispronounced name.

Just nine months ago, with the FBI closing in, SAFA saw fit to send PSL chairman Irvin Khoza up ahead of Jordaan to vote for the disgraced Blatter, even as we digested the enormity of the recently-revealed $10m Africa Diaspora Fund. 

On Friday, it will be no different. Don’t expect anybody to vote for the good of football. Sheikh Salman al Khalifa, the 50-year-old from Bahrain with allegations of torture to deal with, is the unlikely favourite with most bookmakers. He runs the Asian Federation and has apparently secured Africa’s 54 votes.

Gianni Infantino is rated second favourite as he looks to keep the FIFA Presidency in Swiss hands. Once aligned with Platini, he appears to have most of the CONMEBOL and UEFA votes. The visit to Robben Island clearly shows he's desperate for a couple of CAF votes too.

Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein is third on Friday’s starting grid. Aged just 40, he’s the third son of Jordan’s late King Hussein and is apparently directly descended from the prophet Muhammed after 43 generations.

In the 2015 FIFA presidential election last May, plucky Prince Ali lost 133-73 to Blatter, and with none of the major federations  backing him this time, he’ll be lucky to get close to that this time, though personally, I think he’s the only candidate worth voting for.

Jerome Champagne, yet another candidate with a fancy name, has nearly as much chance as Sexwale of reaching double figures.

Though he has the backing of a certain elderly Brazilian named Pele, Champagne was Blatter’s campaign manager in 2002 but his “reforming agenda” is apparently just as unpopular now as it was then.

Which leaves us with Sexwale. A man with no history of football administration and beyond a few dusty kickabouts whilst in jail, no real link to the global game other than being Blatter’s right hand man on issues of racism.

The questions about how Sexwale rocketed in to political and economic stratosphere so quickly after 1994 have already begun.  They’ll subside when he loses on Friday. He ignored Africa in his bid and, in turn, Africa is ignoring him apart from Ghana’s FA chairman Kwesi Nyantakyi taking time to say: “Even I’m more competent than Sexwale.”

As in football, as in life. SAFA managed to back the one candidate doomed to failure. Yet another wake-up call for a giant in a coma. Another reason to ask: who actually runs South African football… and why?

BACKGROUND READING: Evelyn Groenink on Tokyo Sexwale. Threats, assassinations, arms deals. It's unbelievable stuff.


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