Qatari Corruption, Boko Haram and Match-Fixing
A number of thoughts on what has been a busy week in the international sports corruption world:
See further coverage of the New York Times articles here:
There will be more revelations to come...
The superb series of articles by the Sunday Times about the Qatari World Cup bid is the end of the credibility of that odd group the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS). Always plagued by the obvious oxymoron of being a Qatari anti-corruption group, the ICSS's reputation on the world stage has effectively been torpedoed.
I do not think that their officials were in any way involved in allegations of bribery or fixing. However, if they cannot detect the widespread and systematic corruption found by the British journalists in their own country – how can the ICSS experts travel around the world giving ‘advice’ and ‘help’ to other people in fighting corruption or match-fixing?
The Sunday Times stories also cut to the heart of the drive for soft power that has been a Qatari strategy for the last decade. The Qataris understand the importance of football and sport around the world. Much of the street battles of the Arab Spring revolutions were driven by football fans, rather than Linked-in, Facebook Tweeting intellectuals. Sadly, the Qatari administration does not seem to realize the need for governmental reform that must accompany their soft power strategy.
Boko Haram, Missing Children and Match-Fixing.
Like billions of people around the world I deplore what happened to the hundreds of girls: i.e.: kidnapping to satisfy the sexual pleasure of a bunch of wanton thugs.
There is an intellectual link between their fate and world football: the appalling corruption that is hindering the search and rescue operations, while at the same time officials issue banal media statements and press releases.
Two weeks ago, I watched a superb report by an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) journalist who interviewed low-level Nigerian soldiers who were purportedly fighting against the Boko Haram. The soldiers said they had not been paid in months, had no effective equipment and were plagued with so much corruption it was difficult to drive their jeeps, let alone fight.
Yesterday, Nigerian journalists went further. They revealed that cooperation with Boko Haram does not stop with ordinary ranks of their army, but goes all the way up to the generals and senior military officials. Fifteen high-level military personnel have been court martialed for working with Boko Haram.
To quote from Michelle Faul of the Associated Press:
“The news follows months of allegations from politicians and soldiers who have told the Associated Press that some senior officials were helping the Islamic extremists and that some rank-and-file soldiers even fight alongside the insurgents and then return to the army camps.
They have said that information provided by the army officers has helped insurgents in ambushing military convoys and in attacks on army barracks and outposts in their north-eastern stronghold. Leadership newspaper quoted one officer saying that four other officers, in addition to the 15, were found guilty of ‘being disloyal and for working for the members of the sect.’”
The link between this sad affair and match-fixing is that there are the same public pronouncements of ‘we must root out corruption at all costs’ in the fight against match-fixing from various soccer officials as there are – ‘we must find these girls no matter what we do’ – in the fight against Boko Haram. Meanwhile there are officials inside football associations who are aiding the fixers, just as there are Nigerian generals who give support to Boko Haram.
It is simply the way of the world in many countries and soccer associations. However, it undercuts the fight against sports corruption and it leaves hundreds of defenseless children in the hands of sociopathic murderers.