Apr 16, 2012, 1:31 PM
World football governing body Fifa is the most democratic global institution of any significance.
Forget all the furious propaganda whipped up by Western media in the last few days.
No major global institution matches the transparency and fairness with which the head of Fifa is elected. At Fifa, every country, no matter how big or small, gets one vote. Contrast that with other major multilateral bodies.
How is the head of the World Bank picked? By one man. The President of the United States simply nominates the person the Americans feel should head the institution.
And the IMF? They claim on their website they have a rigorous procedure where the candidates are interviewed by a 24-member executive board.
The truth is that the leaders of France and Germany meet and decide who gets the position.
At the United Nations, the five permanent members of the Security Council lobby one another and settle on someone from a small country to serve as secretary-general although a veto by any of them is decisive. (Kofi Annan reportedly had to convince Jacques Chirac that he spoke French so that Paris would not block him.)
This is the post-Second World War order dominated by Washington and Old Europe that Fifa does not respect.
At Fifa, every country’s vote counts. Andorra’s vote has the same weight as America’s. Togo is equal to England. Germany does not have more weight than Guinea Bissau.
Forget about corruption. What annoys the major countries is that this institution, which organises the most prestigious single tournament in the world, does not allow the Euro-Atlantic powers to call all the shots as they do in every other major institution where the bigger animals are more equal than others.
How dare Fifa executives award Russia the 2018 World Cup when the Brits had rolled out Prince William, David Beckham, David Cameron and company to plead for the hosting rights? Why pick Qatar while the mighty Americans and Australia were in the running?
How could they expose Europeans to the dangers of a “machete race war” in “the land of murder” as one British tabloid described South Africa before the 2010 World Cup?
Nobody supports corruption, and Fifa certainly needs to clean up its act.
But would America still have launched its investigation if it had won the bidding rights for 2022? Can a losing bidder be an impartial investigator?
Under Blatter, Fifa has poured millions of dollars into the developing world, most especially, to improve standards. This money should have been used better though.
There is a clear structural problem because the people who steal this money are Fifa delegates whom the Fifa president will naturally hesitate to crack down upon.
It is up to federations in Africa and elsewhere to raise their game and for delegates to choose better leaders.
In a nutshell, Fifa, unlike many important global institutions, is one place where the big animals are not more equal than others and that’s something worth celebrating.
“Corruption is a true enemy to development.”