Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Fifa dilemma; how Khama’s bravado led him into the opposition trap

Word is out that Botswana Government is not going to give in to FIFA demands to stop political meddling in football.

Botswana government feels that being an election year, constituency league is too precious an electioneering item to give away just a few months into elections.

Thus our strongmen in government feel that they would be perceived as weaklings were they to do the right thing by handing the constituency league to Botswana Football Association.

Botswana National Sports Council, that dyed-in-the-wool lackey of the government has been instructed to deliver the unsavoury news that the constituency league is the crown jewel in president’s pet projects ÔÇô and that the big man is not about to let it go; not for any prize. And certainly not as a result of what he perceives (rightfully or wrongly) as intimidation and double dealing by FIFA.

Effectively BNSC has been instructed to go and tell FIFA to go to hell.
We are headed for collision course.

The tragedy of it all is that it all could have been so easily avoided.

What simple truth our government cannot grasp is that FIFA does not run according to Botswana’s political calendar. The man who runs FIFA or his boys across the world are possibly not even aware that Botswana will be holding elections any time soon.

They are still so busy counting and dividing amongst themselves the proceeds money from the just ended World Cup that they simply could not care less.

If our government is not careful, by the time FIFA is done with the World Cup hangover, Botswana will be pronounced suspended; if not to show Khama who really is in charge of world football, then at least to send home the message to anybody who in future might want to defy the football governing body.

President Khama has this time truly overplayed himself.

For many watchers of the Botswana Government over the last few years, this constituency debacle, while disappointing, it is not altogether surprising.

Ours is a government that likes punching above its weight. It also is a government that likes living next to a cliff.

That the President has overreached himself is of itself not surprising.

What is surprising is that he did so when it should have been abundantly obvious to him and his close cronies that he stands to gain nothing.

In fact he stands to lose everything.

Against FIFA he cannot call anyone for a face saving climb down.

By telling FIFA to go to hell, President Ian Khama has not only overplayed himself, he also has fallen for the opposition bait.

The opposition wanted Khama to engage FIFA in a fist bout, knowing so well that there can only be one outcome; FIFA will inevitably win while Khama would lose and shout out for mercy.

For some time it looked like the BDP and its government were intent on establishing a modus Vivendi with FIFA over the constituency league.

That was until government reached an ill-advised conclusion that FIFA was acting in concert with opposition parties in Botswana.

The UDC, or at least the BNF part of it has openly endorsed the FIFA decision, going as far as to say they would provide FIFA with additional information needed to suspend Botswana.

When that happened, all that President Ian Khama needed to do was give in to FIFA so as to live and fight another day.

By refusing to hand over the Constituency League to Botswana Football association, what President Khama has done has been to play into opposition hands.

What our president needs to appreciate is that in truly global terms which is the league where FIFA plays, his populism antics have limits within which to maneuver.

He now stands to take all the blame for all that will follow.

He may not personally pay a direct price.

A good number of BDP members of parliament, especially those in urban areas and also those in marginal constituencies cannot afford to stomach any further self-inflicted gaffes such as this one.
Taking FIFA head-on, especially when there were so many other less risky options may yet prove to be President Khama’s biggest undoing.

It is a kind of bravado he may live to regret, especially since he risks losing exactly that which he wanted to use the constituency league to win.

FIFA is a global institution with billions of ill-gotten dollars at its disposal.

While it is not among the tidiest organisations in the world, it can be ruthless in its application of the rules especially when the Zurich based Mafioso feel they are on a moral high ground such as is the case in their current encounter with the government of Botswana.

If Khama is not careful the true winners of this footballing debacle may just end up being his political adversaries.

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