South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale has officially launched his bid to run in February’s FIFA presidential election.
The announcement was made at a South African Football Association (SAFA) press conference in Johannesburg, where the former politician responded to questions from the media and set out his objectives.
Current FIFA president Sepp Blatter was recently suspended, following an ongoing fraud investigation into FIFA which saw the arrest of 14 officials and marketing executives by US authorities in May on the basis of corruption charges worth an alleged $150m, in addition to more recent suspensions of Blatter, Michel Platini and Jerome Valcke.
The Swiss, who has been in charge of FIFA since 1998, took some weeks to decide on his eventual resignation in the middle of the year, but remained in the position with the view to leaving after February’s election, before a recent suspension of some of FIFA’s top brass saw CAF president Issa Hayatou assume the position of president at the world governing body until February.
Some months ago a spokesperson from the South African’s Global Watch foundation, Peter-Paul Ngwenya revealed that Sexwale may be willing to throw his hat in the ring alongside other global contenders for the presidency, and the South African businessman has finally made that official by announcing his candidacy at a press conference in Johannesburg.
“I was approached by various individuals and organisations to consider running for FIFA presidency. I want to fix the damage done on the brand of football. FIFA’s reputation is damaged, the brand is severely undermined and I need to bring certain reforms,” Sexwale revealed to the assembled media.
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“I need to oversee accountability and governance. What is broken at FIFA is not the pitch, but the administration of the game. What needs to be corrected at FIFA is the ability to follow the money, good financial management and control, and transparency.”
The former government minister previously served on FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force and was a founding member of the Makana FA, which was the unofficial football organisation for apartheid-era prisoners on Robben Island, where he spent 13 years as a prisoner alongside good friend Nelson Mandela. He was quick to remind people of this in response to criticism of his football credentials.
“People are saying I’m not in or from football; I’ve been involved in football from birth. I’ve been in football for a very long time, growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto. I was secretary general of football and all the other sports at Robben Island prison and our league was recognised by FIFA, the Makana FA,” he said.
“I’m on the FIFA media committee and various other facets of the organisation such as the anti-racism committee and next year I’ll be finishing 10 years at FIFA,” he reminded the press.
He went on to address a few points that will be the foundation of his campaign in world football’s governing body, which includes transparency for the organisation, restoration of a positive reputation and the fight against racism in the sport.
“Racism is the single largest thing that will destroy football. I learnt that in the FIFA media committee where I served for four years. The debate that we are going to introduce going to the elections is going to be much more important than the actual outcome. I hope it doesn’t become dirty and it’s a clean game, although football is a contact sport,” he added.
Sexwale recently received the support of German football legend and sports administrator Franz Beckenbauer, who endorsed his bid in the presidential race before it was made official that he would run. He is also expected to receive support from numerous African associations ahead of the February 26 elections.
The other candidates aiming to oppose Sexwale in next year’s election include, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, former Trinidad and Tobago midfielder David Nakhid, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne, Liberian FA president Musa Bility and former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan.
UEFA president Michel Platini may also run in the election, but at the moment he is fighting a suspension and may not be allowed to run for president of FIFA.