Rampant corruption, maladministration and lack of accountability have negatively impacted on the development of football in Africa. Football has turned into a billionaire dollar industry across the world but Africa remains at the periphery of this lucrative system.
It is believed that many factors such as the predatory and globalised nature of major European leagues, Africa’s problem stem from systematic and institutionalised problems with its football administration structures.
The continued under performance of African teams over the years can be used as a yardstick to measure the stagnant nature of the game in Africa.
Local leagues and clubs on the continent are largely run unprofessionally except in a very few countries such as South Africa and accusations of match fixing are abound across the continent. Coupled to this, undue interference provides a context in which football becomes a complex social construct in which space, culture, politics and economics intersect to produce very little development of the game as a vibrant commercial entity.
Yet, Fifa’s standing statutes of non-interference have often meant corrupt leaders continuing in their positions for decades. The question is what then for African football given the deep rooted and structured nature of corruption?
Corruption is synonymous with African football and the tale of the game on the continent is full of controversy and complex problems involving missing funds, election rigging, presidents who serve for decades, under paid players and poor infrastructure.
My aim is to provide examples from across Africa that highlight how the under development of the game is intrinsically linked to the lack of transparency in how the game is being managed.
The nature and level of corruption might be different from country to country but what is clear from literature is that most, if not, all African countries have serious administrative problems.
The major obstacles facing all countries from combating corruption in football are Fifa’s statutes of non-interference. With protection ensured from the global football mother body, most national association leaders run roughshod and this leads to the detriment of the game.
There is corruption in sport all over the world yet somehow when it comes to football in Africa the practice has devastating effects especially on the players earning a livelihood from the sport. Whilst there are many definitions of corruption, I personally define it as the abuse of public office for private gain.
Across the world of football, corruption is evident in many activities including vote buying, match fixing, bribing officials, player transfers, sponsorship deals and even team selections. Across Africa issues of nepotism, tribalism, regionalism and religion also play an important part in corrupt activities.
Corruption determines access to space, resources and fair chance. It hurts all people who depend on the integrity of people in power.
Corruption is not an African problem but endemic to world sport. The nature, scale and impact of corruption in Africa is however different. In Africa, corruption is usually related to how officials use money from sponsors, government and Fifa earmarked for the development of the game for personal use.
*Manase Chiweshe is a PhD holder from Rhodes University in South Africa.