Cleaning up the filth in FIFA

You know things are bad when even American academics who are not into football get all worked up about the sport and its governing body FIFA.

Here’s FP’s Drezner (have you read his zombie book yet?):

A few thoughts.  First, what kind of election process is it when the scandal-beseiged incumbent is the only friggin’ candidate?  Bear in mind this is the same Sepp Blatter who declared that FIFA was much more transparent than the IOC — which is kinda like Frederick’s of Hollywood claiming that they’re classier than Victoria’s Secret.

Second, widening the vote to all members won’t necessarily stop corruption — if the International Whaling Commission is any guide, it will simply expand the number of actors who could be bribed.

Third, any anti-corruption campaign depends on Blatter…. If only Blatter had been caught groping a chambermaid — then there would be some real reform!

Like many out there I hoped that Blatter would step down after the corruption scandals that happened on his watch came to light. His hanging on reflects badly on the Great Sport.

I am a little bit surprised though by the uproar generated by the bribery allegations within FIFA. It’s like everyone had no idea what was going on in FIFA and its member FAs. The organization’s member FAs – from Italy to Nigeria to Thailand – routinely get caught in all sorts of corruption allegations (remember Italian match fixing?).

FIFA is only as good as its national member FAs and the regional confederations. I hope that when the cleanup begins it will not end in Zurich but will extend to national FAs and confederations as well.

africa is not a country

The Economist reports on a project hatched to rebrand sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody can dispute the need to revamp the image of the Continent to make it be more than just about warring Congolese, corrupt Nigerians, or starving Ethiopians. That said, I am not too excited about the idea of packaging the entire continent as one brand for the following reasons:

1. This effort creates incentives for free-riding. Reforming is hard and therefore Chad will not reform if it can get away with attracting marginal investments because a reforming Central African Republic, through the neighborhood effect, has given it a better image.

2. It is the same Africa-is-one-country paradigm that denies the better performing states in Africa foreign investment and good press. Giving the whole continent a single brand does not solve this problem. Each African country should own up to its failures and not be given incentives to hide under an African umbrella.

For instance, ONLY South Africa deserves to bask in the glory of having hosted a successful World Cup tournament. Chad, CAR, Niger, Somalia, the DRC, etc,  had nothing to do with it. In the same vein, only Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and other reforming African states should tout their respective successes. It is by highlighting these countries’ competencies, without diluting them with the others’ mediocrity, that the image of the Continent will be improved.

the world cup

African football is on the ropes. Of the six teams in the tournament in South Africa only Ghana has managed a victory, and even that only through a penalty kick. With Cameroon out (they crashed out today against an arguably weaker Danish team) the best African team in the tournament is Cote d’Ivoire. But the elephants got dealt a bad hand and find themselves having to struggle against Portugal and Brazil if they are to advance. If I had it my way I would have a CAF inquiry at the end of this tournament to determine exactly what it is that continues to perpetuate mediocrity in African football.

The organization of the World Cup tournament by the South Africans has been superb but going by the comments on facebook, among other websites, many are hugely disappointed by the lackluster performance exhibited by the Continent’s representatives at the tournament.