New Era (Windhoek)

18 January 2013

Namibia: Shooting From the Hip - Their Conduct Ought to Be Impeccable

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THE much-anticipated ruling by the world's football governing body, FIFA in favour of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the protracted legal tussle over the status and eligibility of Cameroonian-born defender, one Herve Xavier Zengue, has unleashed a storm of vociferous protest and outrage in Namibia and rightly so.

We believe that our sentiments as a nation will find resonance with all those who genuinely cherish the beautiful game and fair play on this continent and beyond. This once again demonstrates that those at the helm of African football have completely forgotten that they as the supposed custodians or stewards of the beautiful game, should conduct themselves in a manner that inspires confidence and promotes openness and transparency, not to mention fair play in every respect, insofar as the governance of football is concerned.

As matters stand now it appears that those entrusted with the duty of guiding and nurturing African football are guilty of making up policy on the hoof and doubtlessly have become servants of their own whims and undisguised prejudices. In Southern Africa we are starting to wake up to the sad reality that the affairs and modus operandi of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are riddled with rampant corruption, impunity and a callous indifference to the true interests of African football.

The actions and decisions of an ageing and myopic leadership hell-bent on clinging to power at all costs, are tell-tale signs that not all is well in the northerly realms of our motherland - definitely not for football. The parallels with the 'strongman' politics prevailing in that neck of the woods are astounding, alarming, but also sobering. FIFA has stripped Burkina Faso of victory after the tiny West African country repeatedly breached standard FIFA rules by fielding an illegible player in the shape of Cameroonian-born defender Herve Zengue in competitive international matches.

It is a well-documented secret that Zengue has not been cleared to play for Les Etalons, but was nevertheless freely used in a number of competitive games, prompting the world's football governing body FIFA to take action against the habitual offenders.

Despite the fact that Zengue has neither blood ties, nor has he ever lived a single day of his life in Burkina Faso, arrogant football authorities in that country saw it fit to field the burly defender in several FIFA sanctioned competitions, which prompted Namibia to rightfully file a protest during their two-legged 2012 AFCON qualifiers.

However, for some strange reason, Namibia's initial protest was rejected by CAF, while the International Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) added fuel to the debacle by dismissing the subsequent appeals. Please bear with me, but what I cannot fathom is how on bloody earth we can have two bleeding different verdicts over the same issue. I'm just asking. I can only conclude that it is true that the NFA bungled up or flaunted standard procedures by airing their grievances during the compilation of their much-trumpeted appeal, or CAF deliberately took sides by resolving to turn a blind eye on this clear-cut and flagrant disregard of standard FIFA rules by Burkina Faso.

The hierarchy in Cairo has schooled themselves in the art of manipulation and subterfuge to the detriment of African football, and unless African governments throw their weight together in an effort to apply the brakes - football administration on the African continent will continue its journey down the slippery slope and headlong into the abyss.

Take the bull by the horns

There is an old saying that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, which basically means that the quality of something is uncertain until it has been tested directly, or you don't know whether you like it until you've tried it. The technical staff of the Brave Warriors can learn a great deal from this idiomatic expression. Brave Warriors interim coach Norii Kaanjuka has turned out quite the eternal optimist - there's simply no way of putting the lid on his ever brimming and ceaseless confidence. The truth be told, his track record until now has been quite commendable, but he must also learn to take constructive criticism.

On a slightly different note, but staying close to the knitting - Tangeni Shipahu's recent omission from the Brave Warriors international warm-up against Rwanda did not go down well with the often-volatile striker, who in a moment of madness or arrogance decided to vent his frustration and anger through a social network posting by comparing the Namibian football administration to a Sunday school league operation. His comments were not taken lightly by the Warriors' technical staff, resulting in the player being dropped in the Warriors' subsequent encounter, ostensibly upon grounds of indiscipline.

And while one must give the technical staff their due, with a pat on the back perhaps, for letting bygones be bygones by recalling the player - they have certainly placed themselves on beam ends by their unexplained reluctance to disclose the details and outcome of the disciplinary process, since the debacle has already been thrown into the public domain. As the saying goes - the devil lies in the details - perhaps, the time has come to exorcise him and to allow the cool breeze of truth to blow through your affairs. I rest my case.

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