Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
IT IS really hard to take a shot at what has befallen celebrated football icon Kalusha Bwalya, who has been banned from all football activities by the world body FIFA for being found guilty of breaching its statutes.Kalu, as he is fondly called, was penalised for breaching article 16 (confidentiality) and article 20 (offering and accepting gifts and other benefits) of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
A lot has been said in the print and social media with members of the public sharing views which are not in agreement.
Some with emotion feel the 1988 African footballer of the year has been harshly treated for an offence he has denied and said he will appeal against.
Others have taken a swipe at him charging that he should not even have gone to the extent of soliciting ‘help’ from Qatar billionaire Bin Hammam.
There are isolated views that this is the work of his successor Andrew Kamanga with who he reputed not to be in good terms with yet the investigation was triggered by the ethics committee who needed to clear him when he sought office in FIFA.
Football and sports in general should not be politicised to an extent of polarising the nation and personalities involved.
His former general secretary George Kasengele posted that it was all done in the interest of football while Musa Kasonka Jr called for calm and the public to await the appeal process.
When the news about the receipt of the gift from Bin Hammam was broken, it appeared FIFA would ignore inconsequential issues such as Kalusha’s, or is it that smaller amounts were not given priority?
It all started with the ban on former FIFA vice-president and executive committee member as well as CONCACAF president, Jack Warner, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity at national and international level for life for criminal charges in the United States over an alleged £100 million fraud.
Then the big boys Blatter and Michel Platini followed over a £1.3m suspected criminal payment to the Uefa president.
With a lull following the high-profile suspensions, it appeared FIFA had forgotten about the trivial cases.
But FIFA is very thorough when it comes to investigations and the world governing body’s ethics committee must have done its homework before announcing the outcome of the investigation.
Whatever the case, this has dented Zambia’s most recognisable sports personality and as he seeks redress it would be in his best interest and that of the nation to wait and see.
As Tamara Gondwe, a journalist, put it ‘…yes his crime is not theft or corruption but that of soliciting and receiving an inappropriate gift. It’s so sad it has happened to one of us and should in no way be celebrated.’
Indeed it is not something to celebrate about as no individual’s misery is worth celebrating by another but there are lessons to be learnt from this episode which has a few more pages to come.
I stand with Kalusha during this trying time because the suspension has seemingly overlooked his achievements on and off the pitch.
Kalusha and the beautiful game are one and it is difficult to imagine what the 1988 African-footballer-of-the-year would be doing outside football.
But justice is blind and does not take into account a person’s previous works or achievement.
In this case, Kalusha’s integrity has been shattered.
But laws are laws and are blind to a person’s previous record.
It is a pity that during the ban, Kalusha will be unable to contest CAF, FAZ or indeed FIFA elections. His contribution to football is now frozen pending the outcome of his appeal.
If the appeal is not considered favourably, the suspension will leave a scar on his life.
Sports administrators should be careful as to how they solicit and receive donations because well-meaning intentions, if any, could have criminal or unethical connotations to them.
It is important for those holding office to study and appreciate the statutes which govern their conduct so that they do not appear surprised when visited by the law.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO