In a space of two days last week, Liberian football was struck three distinct blows. First was the death of LFA secretary general; second, the disqualification of Football Association President Musa Bility as a candidate of the FIFA presidency, and; the national football team, Lone Star’s 1-0 defeat by The Elephants of Ivory Coast.
While the three events have various implications, the one that seems to have a greater impact and requires ongoing conversation is the role of Bility in the FIFA contest.
Truth is, Bility is a multicolor figure in Liberia, playing various roles within the national political scope: a leader within his ethnic tribal links; owner of a significant media enterprise; a big hand in sports administration, and; a businessman of varying interventions – petroleum, rice, infrastructure, transportation, etc. With such a nature, there is bound to be questions and unresolved issues.
So for him to be subjected to lots of questions – including integrity issues – during the FIFA campaign is not without prior thought. Bility has since indicated that his legal advisers are studying the proceedings for future engagement with the International Court of Arbitration for Sports.
What, however, has become a larger question is his disqualification that emphasizes his disclosure of CAF’s confidential information which caused him a previous suspension from the Confederation of African Football.
As difficult as the entire Bility engagement with football may have appeared and any other thing that he has been engaged with, especially over the last 10 years, this is one area that Liberians need to stand by him. There has been little effort by FIFA to make football administration transparent to strengthen consumers’ confidence.
To date the entire reorganization of FIFA is due to wheeling and dealing, hence efforts should be made to ensure that moving forward inspires greater inclusiveness to lighten up the organization to eliminate dealings. Unfortunately, the process is a bit slow for the comfort of transparency advocates. Worse, the process is being steered by one of the giants in the opaqueness of football – the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou.
After serving forever as President of CAF, and brutally crushing perceived enemies who made attempts to question his plan to perpetuate his ruler, he has emerged as the acting President of FIFA. The most senior Vice President of FIFA was brought in to provide interim leadership – and in comes Hayatou.
In his brush up with Bility a couple of years ago, Bility divulged “confidential information,” which was a plan to revise the statutes of CAF to permit Hayatou to stand for another term of office.
With no word from FIFA at the top of a pyramid of shadowy football administration, CAF openly showed contempt for dissenting views, and contemptuously endured what political leaders across Africa take for child’s play. The impression made was perpetual holding on to power, which is an African phenomenon. And truth is, this holding on has never improved the conditions of our people, but rather strengthened their misery.
Returning to FIFA elections, regardless of whether Bility would have drawn the requisite votes to assume the FIFA Presidency, the issue here is the African connection. Here is a sitting head of the African connection, who resisted any effort to endorse Bility as a candidate, because this kid had dared to challenge his continuous stay in office.
Then in the face of this, Bility somewhat miraculously got the required support to emerge as a candidate. This is contempt, at least within the African show of forced arrangement!
With the next step of background checks, which came under the watchful eyes of Hayatou, nothing could have been further from the disdain the rulers have for the consumers, than to find further room for eliminating this troublemaker.
Then issue of ‘integrity,’ included Bility’s previous suspension by CAF. Therefore, FIFA – under the watch of one of offending dinosaurs – endorsed the suspension wherein the defaulter simply disagreed with scornful rules that led to perpetuation of one man in power. With no malice to the other African candidate, Comrade Tokyo Sexwale, a simple grain test in South African affairs will show the extent to which his business dealings would place him in a ring of question marks. We expect that of business people so South Africa’s serious investigative paper Mail and Guardian, in an editorial that said no to Sexwale’s candidacy, stating that “Certain of his business relationships also raise questions. Why, for example, did he opt to partner with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, accused by nongovernmental monitors of making most of his fortune ‘by looting the Democratic Republic of Congo at the expense of the people?’”
While this deal has become subject to US investigations, his spokesperson said Sexwale had not been convicted or charged: “All these things remain allegations. From where I’m sitting, he is as clean as a whistle.”
So, since difficult business links that place other candidates in uncomfortable positions could not limit their participation, the only area upon which the “dinosaur” could lean was a highly disputed suspension. And Bility effectively became the victim of his advocacy!
But we look forward to Bility and his team running to the Court of Arbitration of Sports. Bility’s suspension was appealed but denied on procedural grounds, but the ban was later lifted! Does that say something? Football administration is a cesspool that utterly needs to be changed! Easily, this is among the reasons for which I respect US Justice Department investigators for the mass of filth they are unearthing from FIFA and related organizations.
This must continue, and even in the individual poor countries where a few rich, business savvy guys are exploiting the masses of the millions that are generated from the ever popular football.
So, we are looking forward to the Court of Arbitration to review this decision. What was so confidential in a CAF meeting – especially if we have to consider – repealing of statutes to lift or extend term limits? This is the scandal that has caused untold suffering in Africa. It is thus a disaster when we see this unfolding in the realm of football.
And so, in the face of the most challenging reforms that are poised to rock football administration, we look forward to the Sports Court to make a crucial decision – one that will uphold this rot that has represented football or one that will endorse the reform agenda.
Whether that works in the interest of Bility or not, what we rather look forward to is a ruling that will strengthen transparency, accountability and inclusiveness in football and make this global fraternity a symbol of peace. (A release from Team Bility for FIFA President).