Two of Africa’s leading football journalists, Oluwashina Okeleji from Nigeria, and Amr Fahmy from Egypt have decried the lack of accountability in football management in Africa.
They spoke on Sunday on the online news programme, 90MinutesAfrcia hosted by Rudolf Okonkwo and Chido Onumah.
Corruption has impacted the growth of football in the continent, the journalists noted.
They observed that the scale may be different, but there is corruption in football across the continent. “There is corruption with TV deals for local competition, corruption in youth football where sons of ex-players are promoted very quickly while other players who are talented have to go on loan to prove themselves and then their original clubs would buy them,” Fahmy said.
According to Okeleji, “Everybody talks about corruption in football, but nobody wants to address it.”
Oluwashina Okeleji and Amr Fahmy were joined by Saddick Adams, Ghanaian ace sports journalist, to examine the recently concluded qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and Africa’s chances at the competition.
Africa’s football powerhouses, Nigeria, and Egypt, were eliminated by Ghana and Senegal respectively.
On the call by football fans for the dissolution of the management of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) following Nigeria’s inability to qualify for Qatar 2022, Okeleji noted that fans were justified in their call because they have been shortchanged by the NFF and “there has been no accountability in terms of the money that comes into football in Nigeria.”
“There is the sponsorship money, there is the grant from FIFA, about 1.6million dollars every year, there is the World Cup bonus and participation fee, there is money from the sponsors of the NFF,” Okeleji observed. “There is no accountability on how this money is spent, where it goes to. Since 2004 there has been no year that I didn’t write about corruption in Nigeria Football Federation, whether the coach is unpaid, the players are crying over unpaid bonuses and allowances, or they are being kicked out of hotels because the NFF didn’t settle hotel bills. The NFF will tell you they are always cash-trapped, but they are getting funding from FIFA, they are getting money from the government.”
According to the journalists, the money that FIFA gives to football federations on the continent is meant for the development of football, but many of the federations can’t account for it.
“Under Sepp Blatter (former President of FIFA) football federation were free to do what they wanted with their allocation,” Okeleji remarked. “But under the current leadership of Giovanni Infantino, you need to come up with a plan on how you want to spend your allocation. Nigeria could not claim that money for three years because every time they sent documents, they couldn’t defend it. No one knows where the money goes to. The NFF audits their own account, and they tell you we are clean. And it is difficult for the government to investigative because FIFA will say you can’t interfere in the running of football.”
Some football federations in Africa have been suspended by FIFA because of alleged government interference.
The journalists called for a body to oversee how the money football federations in Africa get from FIFA and CAF is managed. “FIFA supports federations, but they do not follow up with the federations to know what they do with the money,” Fahmy added.
The journalists agreed that the five African teams—Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia—would go far in the competition if they are able to overcome some of the problems plaguing African football, particularly the issue of the welfare of the players.