Saturday 23 September 2017

The next Fifa president should be black, African and a former player - step forward, George Weah

George Weah
George Weah

Jason Burt

The debate has begun as to who should succeed Sepp Blatter as Fifa president.

It is stating the obvious to say it needs someone untainted by his toxic regime and with the determination to scrub this house clean, weed out his cronies – as much as possible – and not only win back public support but also keep Fifa united.

It is a tall order. Not an impossible task but pretty close to it. So it needs someone with not just a reforming zeal but the personality and profile to carry it through.

It might also help to have a former player and certainly someone with the sport – and not its politics or money-making opportunities – in his or her heart.

Whoever comes in has to do so on an anti-corruption, reforming ticket and support the notion of the presidency being limited to two terms of office.

So, what about George Weah? Africa was fundamentally wrong to support Blatter and Weah was part of that support. “I am pro-Blatter,” he was quoted as saying in the French media. “The positives outweigh the negatives.”

Should that rule him out? Not necessarily. Weah would have to explain those comments but he carries such weight in Africa and in world football, commands such respect as a former player and a politician attempting to reform his homeland, Liberia, that he is an interesting proposition.

And Fifa reform, while fundamentally about removing the corrupt, is not about alienating or disenfranchising those in need. There is some good work being done by Fifa.

Weah is the only African to be named Fifa player of the year. He also won the Ballon d’Or in 1995 and had a glittering career, most notably at AC Milan.

He is the leader of Liberia’s largest opposition party, taking a seat in the country’s senate last December when he defeated the president's son. It is said the 48-year-old former striker wants to run for the presidency itself in 2017, and help unite a nation ravaged by the effects of civil war and recovering from the Ebola crisis.

 His political ambitions might rule him out – and his work there maybe far more important and fundamental than anything he can do for Fifa – but he fits the profile of the ideal candidate.

Fifa must be cleansed but it must not fall under Uefa’s control. Someone like Weah would have populist appeal among supporters throughout the world – especially in Europe and Africa - and he would protect the interests of his home continent.

An interesting alternative is Lydia Nsekera who, three years ago, became the first woman to be appointed onto Fifa’s executive committee. She was the president of the Burundi Football Association and has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2009. Electing a black African woman would certainly change the dynamic of Fifa for the better.

If not her then what about Moya Dodd, the Australian lawyer – some legal knowledge might come in handy – and former player. Again it would change the way of working.

Ultimately, however, it needs someone with a higher profile to bring back faith and inclusivity in the organisation.

So if not Weah then what about someone like Didier Drogba? It is a bit left-field. The striker has left Chelsea and wants to carry on his playing career but the Ivorian has wider social awareness and the understanding to use his fame and profile for the greater good.

Drogba is just 37 and may fancy a season in the MLS but he has made no secret of his longer-term ambitions. He has steered clear of politics but intervened to try and act as a peacemaker to resolve the civil war in the Ivory Coast.

Above all what football needs is someone untainted by Fifa’s past but also with the personality to unite all factions. It does not need a middle-aged, white, European bureaucrat and it would be hard to make a reasoned case for one, however credible he is.

Luis Figo would be a better choice but not someone like Prince Ali bin-al-Hussein from Jordan who even his supporters, such as FA chairman Greg Dyke, said was a ‘stalking horse’.

A black African former player with worldwide appeal would be perfect - so Weah or Drogba should be candidates.

Telegraph.co.uk

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