KEIR RADNEDGE in Budapest: Two years after the first World Cup in Africa that continent provided two further significant steps forward for world football in the 21st century.
Lydia Nsekera, the only woman federation president in all of world football, has become the first woman member of the FIFA executive – despite grumblings from the old guard – and South Sudan has expanded the membership of the world federation to a record 209.
Nsekera is anything but a token woman, promoted to offer FIFA a less chauvinistic, old-boy image; she is the daughter of a sultan, a successful business woman and a member of the International Olympic Committee.
Sepp Blatter had told FIFA Congress in Zurich last year that the significance of women’s football – never mind expectations of a modern society – demanded that the exco open its doors to a female representative.
Since this year fell inbetween the election cycles, there was no natural vacancy on the exco and the precise composition of a future exco is still being discussed within the reform process.
Hence Blatter proposed that the exco co-opt a woman this time around and create the judicial circumstances for a representative of the woman’s gaem to be voted in by right next year. As he said, gallantly: “At last, after 108 years of men’s power, we have have the honour and pleasure to invite a lady to take part in our executive committee.”
Not that ‘our executive committee’ was wholly welcoming.
Later, after wrapping up Congress, Blatter revealed: “I have to report that some members of the executive committee said: ‘One year for a woman on the committee and then we will see about the future,’ but I will defend this situation now we have achieved it.
“There was also a move by some people who said: ‘If we are going to take a vote next year then surely there is no reason to admit a woman to the executive committee now?’ That’s true. It has been written down in meeting notes.”
Nsekera’s presence on the stage among the other exco members at the end of Congress in Budapest proved that this was another battle Blatter had won against the old guard.
As for South Sudan, the country’s federation has benefited from a further bending of the old rules. Previously a ‘new’ nation needed to be a member of its continental confederation before it could be admitted to FIFA membership.
Hence South Sudan was admitted to full FIFA membership in Budapest only 10 months after the country’s separation from the ‘old’ Sudan was confirmed and ratified by the United Nations.
The first action its delegation undertook was to vote on the proposal which approved the new FIFA Code of Conduct, a key factor in the reform process in which the world football federation is engaged.
FIFA’s membership of 209 compares with 204 in the IOC and 193 in the United Nations.
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