Azapo writes to Fifa boss Infantino asking for investigation into Mosimane snub

20 January 2022 - 13:33
By Marc Strydom
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane.

The Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) has written to Fifa president Gianni Infantino requesting an investigation into the snub of Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane from the shortlist for the organisation’s 2021 Coach of the Year award.

Azapo secretary for sport and recreation Sunshine Mbele authored the letter, which protests against “the unfair treatment of Africans under Fifa” and said the snub of the SA coach from the initial seven-man shortlist smacked of discrimination and racism.

“It is no secret that Mr Mosimane overachieved with Al Ahly in the period under review. Azapo has thus called on Fifa to institute and investigation into this and reconstitute the antiracism tribunal in sports that was disbanded in 2016,” Mbele said in an accompanying statement.

Fifa established a Task Force Against Racism and Discrimination in 2013, but it was disbanded three years later.

Mbele's letter states: “By way of introduction I am from SA, the same country that hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“The 2010 World Cup was being hosted on African soil for the first time in almost 80 years of the competition's existence. This was not by accident of history and lack of talent but through systemic exclusion and racism.

“Africa had come a long way in asserting her recognition and position in world football despite decades of institutionalised racism and cultural bias in the sport.

“Indeed, we all felt Africa's time had come and were even more inspired and our hopes renewed when Fifa launched its global antiracism campaigns, including establishing an antiracism task force. Sadly in 2016 we saw the disbandment of the task team amid growing concerns about discriminatory behaviour leading up to the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup.”

Mbele wrote that the awards snub of Mosimane indicated Fifa had gone backwards on the issue of racism.

“Today I write to you certain that Africa has woken up to a sad reality that the gains and progress we thought global football had made in challenging discrimination and racism in sport have been reversed.

“It was not just a figment of our fertile imagination. Your organisation is now at the centre to undermine yesteryear's efforts to end racism in sport.

“The events surrounding the nomination of candidates for the converted title of The Best Fifa Men's Coach of the Year for 2021 could not have left us more convinced of the fact.

“As rightly observed by Rory Smith in his [New York Times] article titled 'When two Champions League in eight months don't count', despite his groundbreaking record Pitso Mosimane (and perhaps all Africans) does not fit the model.

“For the second time Pitso had been voted Caf coach of the year for 2021 after having won the African Champions League title twice in eight months, two African Super Cup titles and third place/bronze at the 2020 Fifa Club World Cup.

“If this record is not deserving of global recognition, perhaps as Fifa you must tell us what Africans should [do] for global sport recognition, in your view.”

The letter notes that it was not only Africans who appeared to be at the wrong end of the Fifa awards' apparent Eurocentric bias, and that Argentina national coach Lionel Sebastián Scaloni was the only nominee among the seven who was not European or did not work in Europe. Therefore, Mbele wrote, “global football needs Fifa to explain their criteria”.

“Not only does overlooking Pitso leave Africans and sensible global football fans with a bitter taste from lack of fair play, it also invariably leaves them with the impression that discrimination and racism remains a dominant factor in institutions charged with global sport governance — which is Fifa in this instance,” she wrote.

Azapo called for Fifa “to re-establish the antiracism task force, investigate the exclusion of coaches like Pitso” and “establish an internal ombudsman and global independent tribunal for adjudication of cases involving racism” in Fifa and its confederations.

The letter was CC'ed to Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Patrice Motsepe, Caf secretary-general Véron Mosengo-Omba, and SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan.

In 2021, Mosimane defended his 2019-2020 Caf Champions League title beating Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 in the final in July, won two Caf Super Cups and steered Ahly to third place at the Covid-19-delayed Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar in February.

The three finalists for Fifa’s Coach of the Year Award were Thomas Tuchel (won the Uefa Champions League with Chelsea), Pep Guardiola (won the English Premier League for the third time with Manchester City) and Roberto Mancini (won the delayed 2020 Euro Championships with Italy).

The four other original nominees were Scaloni, Antonio Conte (Inter Milan/Tottenham Hotspur), Hansi Flick (FC Bayern Munich/German national team) and Diego Simeone (Atlético Madrid).