African ace football legend and one of the greatest Nigerian players of all time, Segun Odegbami, has thrown his hat into the ring to contest for the post of President of FIFA – the international governing body of association football across the world, with election scheduled to take place on the 26th of February, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.
The position of the President of FIFA is now vacant since the current president – Sepp Blatter – resigned his appointment in June 2015. According to Segun Odegbami, also known as ‘Mathematical Odegbami’ – a label he was given because of his masterful exhibition of engineered dribbles, technical control of the ball and goal-scoring skills during his footballing era – said, “The current scandal at FIFA is the organisation’s worst crisis in its 111 years of existence. Moving forward, FIFA thus requires a new era of leadership that can restore the dignity of the noble sport and that of this esteemed international institution with global followership”
Odegbami believes that to address this will demand that FIFA purges itself, launders its image, restores its reputation and reinstates integrity into its activities and operations and that this would require a new form of leadership with a renewed vision. He said: “Times like this call for all concerned members of the global football family to contribute to the actualization of renewed objectives for FIFA by electing a deserving and qualified person, with the right character that can achieve the desired goals and restore confidence and integrity to the organization and its activities. The world is very interested in who becomes the next President of FIFA, considering the present image and state of this institution and I see myself fitting into this role”
A look at Segun Odegbami’s background reveals a wholesome and rich antecedent that reflects that this legendary son of African does qualify for this post and has what it takes to effectively represent the Nigerian nation and African continent at FIFA. Odegbami’s relationship with football, started when he was 5 years old. With his pedigree, passion, vision, experience, knowledge and character – most of which are evidenced in his broad and global experiences and exposures – this epitome of humility and visionary leadership has demonstrated astute discipline and integrity in all his activities and endeavours, within and outside football. The former captain of the Green Eagles, with 46 caps and 23 goals for the national team and one of those that made the number 7 jersey popular, had also served as an administrator, an educator, a writer, international media personality and as Sports Ambassador of Nigeria.
The choice of an African, specifically a Nigerian, may look far-fetched in this pursuit, noting the international coverage of FIFA and the historical trend in its leadership representation. However, closer scrutiny of the international footballing environment reveals the real possibility of such a change. Throughout the history of FIFA, the organisation had been led by 7 Europeans and one South American, never an African! This despite Africa’s tremendous contributions to the game. Therefore, Odegbami’s aspiration for the leadership of FIFA and noting that he is representing the African continent creates an opportunity to make it the time for Africa.
The bid, from this internationally acclaimed and highly decorated sportsman, who has bagged many honours and awards, among which are the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger, the Fellowship of the Nigerian Institute of Management, FIFA/Mastercard African Players of the 20th Century award, an Honorary Doctorate Degree [Sports] from Bradley University, Illinois, USA, and an Ambassador of the 1-Goal Education-for-All World Cup 2010 Campaign, will be positioned on core messages that this is an African bid, that it is Africa’s turn to lead FIFA, that the spirit and essence of football can reach and permeate far beyond a game of sport, and that football administration can be renewed and viewed from the unique lens of Africa. In his words, “football is what my entire life has revolved around. My life’s ambition has always been to use football to make a difference in my local space and across the world, to go back to the original mission of promoting peace and cementing the bonds of friendships amongst the citizens of the world, and maximizing the global followership of the game to transform the lives of people and communities and advance social causes around the world”
Hence, Odegbami’s approach will pay a lot of attention to issues beyond the current power struggles in football, by exploiting and exploring the sport in a holistic way and focusing on the positive products and by-products of the game that can positively influence and impact on the youths and broader communities of the world. Odegbami promises to steer the activities of the office of the President of FIFA with the highest sense of responsibility, integrity, transparency, probity and accountability, as reflected by the current spirit of value-based leadership now in Nigeria, thereby creating a new and optimistic future for football that further focuses on human, infrastructural, social and community development across the world.
The process for the attainment of the position of President of FIFA is a long and tedious journey, which Segun Odegbami is prepared to travel. He has already conveyed his intention to the Nigeria Football Federation, as required by the electoral guidelines and FIFA Statutes, as well as to the federal government seeking their support.
The deadline for candidates to formally present their nominations through their home football federations, with other supporting documents, is 26th October 2015. Candidates will also undergo an integrity test, through FIFA’s ad-hoc election committee. Segun Odegbami now seeks the support and prayers of all Nigerians, the African continent and, indeed, the whole world, in taking up this challenge to recreate a new image for the game of football and reposition its developmental influence and possibilities across the globe.