Safa president Danny Jordaan's seeking of greater representation for African countries in future World Cups have been effectively stifled.
There was an element of irony over the confirmation on Wednesday that pop star luminaries Pitbull, Claudia Leitte and Jennifer Lopez would sing the world cup anthem We Are One in harmony at the climax of the opening ceremony of the 20th Fifa World Cup.
Unlike the song title, the Fifa congress, which met in São Paulo on the eve of Thursday’s opening event, displayed an under-current of deep division over 78-year-old president Sepp Blatter’s decision to seek a fifth term of office.
In the process of reportedly bitter recriminations and resentment among disenchanted European countries, in particular, over Blatter’s about turn on the presidency, and allegations of bribery over Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, Safa president Danny Jordaan’s seeking of greater representation for African countries in future World Cups, as well as on the Fifa executive, were effectively stifled and sidelined.
In an interview with the Fifa website earlier, Jordaan stressed the importance of staging a World Cup and the benefits South Africa had accrued as a result of hosting the 2010 tournament.
“It can do the same for Brazil,” he said when asked to comment on the demonstrations that had sprung up around the country over the billions spent on running the World Cup.
Jordaan had previously made no bones about his intention to take on the big guns of Europe in a quest to gain greater representation for Africa.
‘It’s always thrown in our face’
Africa had five teams among the 32 taking part in the 2014 World Cup, with Europe boasting a dominant 13 teams, South America six, and Central/North America and Asia providing four each. On the Fifa executive, the European representation was nine, South America and Africa four each, the Asian and neighbouring bloc numbering five and North America three.
According to Jordaan, it was the numerically-strong European bloc, while granting a healthy respect for South America’s prowess and long-standing strength on the field of play, who call all the shots.
However, he admitted that for Africa to be granted a more meaningful distribution of power, on and off the field, it was the continent’s record during the World Cup, which would be essential for a major breakthrough.
“It’s always thrown in our face that no African team has ever gone beyond the quarterfinal stage, with only Cameroon and Ghana having progressed that far,” Jordaan said. “When you compare this to the 10 World Cups won by European countries and the nine by those from South America, it is not easy putting up an argument for greater representation.
“But I’m hoping for a breakthrough for at least a semifinal berth for an African team in Brazil. If one of them were to make it to the semifinals this time around, it would certainly help enormously in Caf [Confederation of African Football] putting forward a strong case for greater recognition in the future.”
Africa’s great representation
Jordaan pointed out that with 52 nations affiliated to Fifa, the African continent had by far the greatest representation at the Fifa congress and should have had a greater say in deciding on its soccer destiny.
Apart from improving the prowess of the continent’s footballers, Jordaan said it was traditionally the monetary clout of the European countries that initially enabled them to gain an iron-fisted grip at Fifa. “But matters have changed dramatically in the last couple of decades,” he said. “Of Fifa’s six major multibillion sponsors only Adidas is a European entity. The rest are Asian, with Coca-Cola, Hyundai-Kia, Sony and such-like having a great deal of influence.”
Backers from Africa were conspicuously absent from the list of Fifa sponsors. MTN made a brief contribution when the World Cup was staged in South Africa in 2010, but they are no longer on the list of big benefactors.
“Despite this, Africa as a developing continent should not be handicapped,” Jordaan said. “I sense a disturbing attitude that Africa had their World Cup in 2010 and that should keep them quiet.
“But we showed our expertise in organising one of the most successful World Cup events in 2010 and it’s up to the other African nations to show they can stage a World Cup event as well – even if it won’t be easy twisting the arm of Europe, whose representatives presently are able to outvote any two of the other continent’s representatives.
“And Asia and the United States will also be wielding their financial clout in influencing the staging of future World Cups.” – Sapa