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-Evolving Factors in Bility’s Disqualification

Liberian football was struck three distinct blows over the last week, and within a space of two days. The death of Football Association Secretary General Alphonso Armah after a stiff fight with liver cancer; the disqualification of Football Association President Musa Bility as a candidate of the FIFA presidency and the national football team’s The Lone Star’s defeat in  a stunning 1-0 at the hands of The Elephants in Monrovia.

While the three events have various manifestations and implications, the one that seems to have a greater impact and requires ongoing thought and conversation is the role of Bility in the FIFA Contest.

Truth is, Bility is a multicolor figure in Liberia, playing various roles within the national political scape, a leader within his ethnic tribal links; owner of a significant media enterprise, a big hands in sports administration, and a businessman of varying interventions – petroleum rice, infrastructures, transportation, etc. with such a nature, there is bound to be questions, unresolved issues, intrigues, and a multitude of dogfights.

So, that he will be subject to lot of questions – including integrity issues – during the FIFA campaign is not without prior thought. Bility has since indicated that his legal advisers are studying the proceedings to future engagement with the International Court of Arbitration for Sports. Right way to go!

What however has become a larger question is the pint in his disqualification note that emphasizes his disclosure of confidential information. This caused him a previous suspension from the Confederation of African Football. As difficult as  the entire Bility engagement with football  may have appeared and any other thing that he has been engaged with, especially over the last 10 years, this is one area in which we thought to stand by him.

For a background, football, whether local, national or global, is the most opaque of organizations. There has been little effort whatsoever to make football transparent, and strengthen consumers’ and stakeholders’ confidence.

Coming to date, where the entire reorganization of FIFA is due to wheeling and dealings, more efforts should be made whatsoever to ensure that moving forward inspires greater inclusivity, lighten up the organization and eliminates the dealings.

Unfortunately so far, the process is a bit so slow for the comfort of transparency advocates. Worse, the process is being steered by one of the giants in the opaqueness of football – the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Issa Hayatou.

After serving like forever as President of CAF, and brutally crushing perceived enemies who make attempts to question his plans to perpetuate his rulership, he emerged as the acting President of FIFA on a situation that required the show of eternity. The most senior Vice President of FIFA was brought in to provide interim leadership – and comes in Hayatou.

In this brush-up with Bility a couple of years ago, the case had been Bility’s divulgence of “confidential information,” which effectively was a plan to revise the statutes of CAF to permit Hayatou to stand for another term of office.

With no word from FIFA, at the top of a pyramid of shadowy football administration, CAF openly showed contempt for dissenting views, and contemptuously endured what political leaders across Africa take for child’s play. The impression made was perpetual holding unto power is an African phenomenon. And truth is, this holding over has never improved the conditions of our people, but rather strengthened their misery.

Returning to the FIFA elections, regardless of whether Bility would have drawn the requisite votes to assume the FIFA Presidency, the issue here is the African connection. Here is the sitting head of the African connection, who resisted any effort to endorse Bility as a candidate, because this kid had dared to challenge his continuous stay in office. OK! Then, in the face of this, Bility somewhat – miraculously or however – got the required support to emerge as a candidate. This is contempt, at least within the African show of force arrangement!

With the next step of background checks coming up, under the watch of Hayatou, nothing could be further from the disdain the rulers have for the consumers and stakeholders, than to find further room for eliminating this troublemaker.

So, come the long line of “integrity” issues, including a previous suspension. Therefore, FIFA – under the watch of one of offending dinosaurs – has endorsed a suspension wherein the defaulter simply disagreed with scornful rules changing that leads to perpetuation. With no malice to the other African candidate, Comrade Tokyo Sexwale, a simple grain test in South African affairs will show the extent to which his business dealings would place him in a ring of question marks. We expect that of business people South Africa’s serious investigative paper Mail and Guardian, in an editorial that says no to Sexwale’s candidacy, states that “Certain of his business relationships also raise questions. Why, for example, did he opt to partner with Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, accused by nongovernmental monitors of making most of his fortune “by looting the Democratic Republic of Congo at the expense of the people”?”

While this deal has become subject to  US investigations, his spokesperson says Sexwale had not been convicted or charged: “All these things remain allegations. From where I’m sitting, he is as clean as a whistle.”

 So, since difficult business links that places other candidates in uncomfortable positions could not limit their participation, the only area upon which the “dinosaur” could lean was a highly disputed suspension. And Bility effectively became the victim of his advocacy! This sucks!

But we look forward to Bility and his team running to the Court of Arbitration of Sports. While the suspension was appealed and denied on procedural grounds. The ban was later lifted! Does that say something? Football administration is a cesspool that utterly needs to be changed! Easily, this is among the reasons for which I respect US Justice Department investigators for the mass of filth they are unearthing from FIFA and related organizations. This must continue, and even in the individual poor countries where a few rich, business savvy guys are exploiting the masses of the millions that are generated from the ever popular football.

So, we are looking forward to the Court of Arbitration to review this decision. What was so confidential in a CAF meeting – especially if we have to consider – repealing of statutes to lift or extend term limits? This is the scandal that has caused untold suffering in Africa. It is thus a disaster when we see this unfolding in the realm of football – about the most popular sports in the world – if we consider the number of countries where it is religion! And so, in the face of the most challenging reforms that are poised to rock football administration, we look forward to the Sports Court making a crucial decision – one that will uphold this rot that has represented football or one that will endorse the reform agenda.

Whether that works in the interest of Bility or not, what we rather look forward to is a ruling that will strengthen transparency, accountability and inclusivity in football and make this global fraternity a symbol of peace.

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