Infantino’s Fifa presidency gets off to a pedestrian start

Trying to get back bribe money is a lost cause and the new Fifa boss should be looking forward rather than backwards

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 10:15pm

As first acts go, it’s less than reassuring. A little more than three weeks into his new gig as president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino has come out playing the victim card. Pity poor Fifa, their name has been tarnished by a few rogue elements who are odious and despicable.

Yes, Fifa now admits that these corruptive forces indeed took money to secure votes for World Cup bids and they are just as shocked about it as the rest of us.

Yes, Fifa now admits that these corruptive forces indeed took money to secure votes for World Cup bids and they are just as shocked about it as the rest of us

In fact they are so shocked and devastated about the way this tiny clique’s greed damaged their reputation that they now want all that bribe money back just to prove how disgusted they are and how transparent they intend to be going forward.

A number of members of the executive committee were arrested last year on behalf of the US Justice Department on multiple charges of corruption and racketeering while Swiss authorities are also investigating bribery allegations in regard to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. “It is now apparent that multiple members of the Fifa’s executive committee abused their position and sold their [World Cup] votes on multiple occasions,” Fifa said.

The group has lodged a multi-million dollar claim in the US for compensation from indicted former executives who have “deeply tarnished the Fifa brand”.

They cited a US$10 million payment from South Africa rerouted through Fifa to an indicted executive in the Caribbean as proof of a bribe to help the country secure the 2010 World Cup. All told, Fifa is looking to recoup US$190 million in assets and US$100 million in seizures. This is incredulous on so many different levels that it is necessary to step back and exhale before trying to comprehend it.

South Africa’s sport minister Fikile Mbalula is incensed and has demanded an apology claiming that the money was not a bribe but a payment intended for an “African Diaspora Programme” in the Caribbean. Citing a number of “explosive contradictions in Fifa’s report”, Mbalula was astounded how they could go from being the subject of an FBI investigation to a victim of their own actions. “The failure of football’s governing body to regulate its own officials, as it has indicated in its press release, cannot be placed at the doorstep of South Africa and its people,” he said.

But all of this is looking backwards at things that have already happened. Through it all – the conjectures and counter conjectures, the criminal and criminally absurd – only one thing is certain: the lawyers are getting paid and handsomely at that. It serves no one but the lawyers to try and revise recent history. Fifa could recoup some of the money, although at this point it seems hard to fathom. But they will never recoup any amount of public trust, if indeed they ever had any.

Most felt that nothing short of a complete implosion of Fifa as an entity was necessary for any kind of world soccer governing body going forward. However, short of that the hope is that transparency becomes the norm and Infantino himself said we should now all judge Fifa by what they do and not what they say.

OK, so what you have done is play the victim card to recoup money that basically was not yours to begin with. You’re going backwards to go forward and even the most basic laws of physics tell you how this will end.

By admitting that the decision to award South Africa the 2010 World Cup was tainted, Fifa has opened a Pandora’s box. The very same odious collection of officials who let South Africa buy them were still in place when for the decision to award Russia and Qatar the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

However, Infantino steadfastly claims that there is absolutely no proof of any kind of vote buying even though the Qatar decision is still inexplicable.

So maybe these corruptive elements had too much money in their pockets already and they demurred when they were called upon to select the World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022. No, we’re good thanks. We got South Africa’s money now and our coffers are full, so in the name of transparency may the best bids win.

This is what Infantino is currently trying to sell you. Honestly, it is. Granted the scandals have hit Fifa’s pocketbook fairly hard, but it’s not like they are broke. They made US$2 billion alone on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and that is on the money that was reported. Who knows how much more is under the mattress?

Do yourself a favour, Gianni, cut your losses and move on. Otherwise you will be done before you even get started.