The ongoing visit by Fifa and Caf to the Namibia Football Association is long overdue but signals good timing because it is at the beginning of the year.
The sooner the higher echelons in the continental and international football federations bring the current drama in Namibian football to an end, the better for all the stakeholders of the game.
Fifa must, however, be reminded that we are mindful of the recent events in which Ranga Haikali was invited and postured himself as a president of NFA, brandishing pictures with international football personalities at a Fifa event in Qatar, and in the process undermining the NFA and its members at whose 30th Ordinary Congress on 4 December 2021, the entire executive committee, including Ranga Haikali, were dismissed.
I am also not sitting comfortable with the possible intentions of Fifa regarding how its visit was announced, but more particularly by the fact that Fifa continues to address Ranga Haikali as the NFA president in its correspondence.
The subsequent media and publicity stunts have served to cause further frustration and consternation in Namibian football, and I wish that the current visit will serve to do nothing other than restoring order in Namibian football.
With order, I mean, firstly, that Namibian football needs to be delivered from the egocentric presence of Ranga Haikali, whose divisive and undermining leadership style has been at the centre of the chaos and division that led to the dismissal of the executive committee of which he was just another member, albeit with the title of president.
The fact that Fifa has been using subtle methods to portray Ranga Haikali as NFA president is nothing short of unconstitutional attempts to influence the outcome of the decision of a legitimately held congress at which NFA members who were properly represented, took a decision to rescue football from an executive committee that did nothing except to continue a legacy of internal fights that heralded the Frans Mbidi and Barry Rukoro era, and which has done nothing but harm to the brand of football.
We are aware that strategic machinery has been deployed to try and influence Fifa decisions with regard to a legitimate congress, which took place on 4 December 2021.
Part of the stratagem was to run general and social media campaigns to denounce the congress as having been directed by Caf and Fifa not to be held, which is an utter falsehood.
We all know that Fifa and Caf only directed the NFA members and secretariat not to continue holding the extraordinary congress, which was scheduled for November 2021. That directive was complied with.
Fifa was also duly informed that the 30th Ordinary Congress of 4 December 2021, which was already announced in March last year would take place, and that the same motion would be moved to deal with the former dysfunctional executive committee.
Fifa had ample time to direct against or provide the necessary advice regarding what should and should not happen at the said congress. It did not do so, implying that the members were within their right to recall the fumbling leaders who they have elected to run football out of the doldrums of the previous era.
In fact, the question remains if Fifa would have had the constitutional authority to direct the NFA members against removing a fumbling executive committee that got into office with their votes.
The other stratagem was for Phillip Chiwanga to come and make unsubstantiated pronunciations about the 30th Ordinary Congress of the NFA, telling the Namibian media and nation that Cosafa still recognises Ranga Haikali as the de facto NFA president.
Please, we all know Phillip Chiwanga is a football clown. One only needs to look at the current situation of ZIFA in his home country. Unlike in Zimbabwe, in Namibia, we respect congress decisions and election outcomes. The same counts for our voluntary associations, like the NFA.
Fifa knows that any organisation whose existence and functioning is defined by a constitution, is founded upon principles of democracy.
We hope that the intended Fifa roadmap is not a repetition of the 2006 unconstitutional process in which corrupt elements in the form of Ashford Mamelodi and Jerome Valcke were sent to orchestrate elections and remove people who were against John Muinjo. Such an attempt will be a gross violation of Fifa’s statutes, and a serious disregard for Article 4.3 of the NFA statutes, which provide that “the NFA shall provide the necessary institutional means to resolve any internal dispute that may arise between members, clubs, officials and players”.
The sooner Fifa realises that the current crisis was of internal nature, and that it was resolved constitutionally through the NFA statutes, the better.
Fifa and Caf also know that in terms of their statutes, the NFA is an independent member that should run its affairs without undue external interference from external parties – and lest so, electing and removing leaders is particularly something NFA members should be afforded to exercise without external influence, as long as they operate within constitutional confines.
The numbers also speak for themselves. Fifa will at this stage know that virtually nobody in the NFA membership ranks wants anything to do with the former executive committee as a group. Any attempt by Fifa or Caf to reinvent the wheel will only waste time and scarce resources. Any attempt to enforce Ranga Haikali, or the former executive committee, will yield the same results, even if we are to hold an election tomorrow.
I also wonder if Fifa is aware that the secret lobbyists who are now ganging up behind Ranga Haikali are the same people who were at the heart of chaos in football in this country. Some of them made football ungovernable, and when the NPL and some officials were expelled, they called a press conference and accepted the expulsion, mapping out their future outside NFA in a press release, and in which they announced that they have registered a new “professional league” with BIPA, and after which they sought registration with Namibia Sports Commission as an associate member, with the ultimate aim of forming an association that will rival the NFA.
The promises of millions to the new “professional league” was premised on dubious links with a World League Forum, which wants to form rival associations worldwide to drive anti-Infantino and anti-Fifa projects. That these promiscuous opportunists are now getting proxy audience from Fifa through questionable individuals within the ranks of football, is a sick sign of times. Football in Namibia does not need them. They can go and form their association and professional league.
I would therefore suggest that the Fifa/Caf team look at the milestones of what the NFA members have achieved so far in resolving their internal issues, and integrate their proposed roadmap with what the NFA currently has in place to speed up matters of bringing the game back to the people.
The NFA secretariat is best advised to, as part of its roadmap that must be consolidated with whatever Fifa brings, look at reviewing and crafting a new strategy, that must begin with stakeholder consultations, sooner rather than later. Current and prospective stakeholders should be given chance to participate in this process to map out their expectations from football administrators, so that everyone can come on board and chart a new direction for the game.
The refusal by the majority of former NFA members to honour this circus expedition, out of respect for the Congress decision of the NFA members, is worthy of praise. Football history will judge them kindly one day.
Fifa has introduced and immortalised the concept of fair play in this game worldwide over the years, and they should now give sensible meaning to this slogan. The concept should not be confined to matches only, but football’s boardroom dealings also.
We love this game, and I hope that the NFA member representatives will not be pressured into accepting Ranga Haikali and co back on Fifa terms just to play football with Fifa money. The regions have anyway benefited nothing from Fifa funds over these years.
The best alternative would be to get visionary leadership, and play and rebrand football without Fifa money, until we win back the trust of our local stakeholders, but it will be extremely dirty for Fifa to exploit the financial situation of the association to impose a useless, divisive leadership on Namibian football. We may be a small football association, but we understand our statutes.
* Willie Swartz is a former NFA executive committee member and acting secretary general.