Is it time for a woman to take charge of FIFA?

Over 30 million women play football. In the middle of the sea of crisis, why can’t the next leader be female?

In the world of smoke and mirrors, behind the spin and the secrecy, the lies and vested interests, the tangled webs of international diplomacy (or lack of it), the posturing, the blinkered views and denials, one thing is sure about the astonishing FIFA crisis and its large global ripples.

It’s a situation caused, managed by and mismanaged by men.

It’s a ‘man’s game’ football governance, and was almost exclusively so when the deals were done that have undone FIFA.

As the crisis increasingly becomes less about football governance and more about geopolitical tensions and mistrust, I realised that this isn’t one of the first – but hopefully one of the last – international scandals that has featured ageing gentlemen feathering their own nests.

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Do excuse the absence of the word ‘allegedly’ as that much is undoubtedly true, bribes or not.

During this news tsunami, sage observers, and by that I mean the likes of my baker and neighbour, no pompous journalists have pointed out to me that football has simply proved to be the same other businesses across the globe.

It’s just that people are more interested in football’s ‘dodgy dealings’ than how other businesses strike deals. This is an issue for society, not just football.

As we digest men being arrested, men hanging on and men who want to capitalise in the new FIFA, are we taking a step back and acknowledging two things about who could become president.

One, as the battle to replace Blatter begins – and the man himself could still play a significant part in the identity of his successor – the names of ‘football men’ are thrown around.

Men who played it well and now want to hit the heights in the boardroom.

Then there are those with a non-football (playing) background who have made an impact in football governance: Prince Ali, for example.

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But there is only occasional mention of those who could run from football from a completely clean slate.

People untainted by football’s mistakes, someone to play a Kofi Annan role. The way the global battle lines are being drawn, it might actually need such radical thinking to save FIFA.

Secondly, no less importantly, why are no women being mentioned in FIFA’s future? Perhaps I have got this wrong and a new diverse FIFA is about to be born but how many women have you heard mentioned?

On the day Blatter announced he was stepping down, I spent a lot of airtime discussing the crisis and the future on-air.

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I raised whether the new president would or should be a woman. But I knew it was a sidebar subject, something to be discussed in detail on another day. Shouldn’t that day arrive now?

Every day is action-packed with FIFA speculation and manoeuvring but there is no talk of a female candidate. Currently, Lydia Nsekera is the only female who is a full FIFA Ex-Co member.

And FIFA claims that over 30 million women play the game.

Are you getting the irony of all this? The most successful and exciting Women’s World Cup is taking pace and people are realising that this sport isn’t the men’s game after all.

It belongs to us all. Women in football don’t have to be constantly seen as playing catch-up in standards and in public-interest.

Most people are acknowledging football as an exciting sport in its own right. One lauded English newspaper writer managed to sneak through a column effectively saying ‘women’s football is garbage’ under the cloak of ‘don’t patronise it by pretending it’s brilliant’.

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He added that the players “can’t string two passes together”. Coming from a ‘straight talking’ male with an army of little followers, it must be true, right?

Maybe he should watch a bit more of it.

Should the progress of women’s football be reflected by more women in the boardroom? Probably, but that’s not the main point I am making.

Football desperately needs to be run along intelligent, ethical, business-savvy lines.

Why wouldn’t the people who do that be largely female? And why shouldn’t the new FIFA President be a woman?

Source : Al Jazeera


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9 Jun 2015
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