Liberian FIFA hopeful vows to end corruption

Liberian FIFA presidential hopeful Musa Bility on Friday vowed to clean up the scandal-hit governing body of world football, promising a clampdown on corruption by ending secret ballots and decentralising power.

The 48-year-old, who has headed his country’s football association since 2010, on Thursday became the second person after Brazilian legend Zico to announce his intention to succeed Sepp Blatter.

He told AFP the secret ballot system to elect FIFA presidents was the “number one source of corruption” in the organisation, pledging to introduce open voting if given a mandate to lead.

“When you go to Congress you represent a country. If you are taking a position you should be… proud to say ‘this is my position’,” he told AFP in an interview in the Liberian capital Monrovia.

“The secret ballot belongs to politics. I am going to make sure that football is transparent.”

Blatter announced in May he would step down as president after 17 years in the job following FIFA becoming embroiled in a series of corruption allegations.

Elections for the presidency — which normally take place in the year after a World Cup — are expected to be held between December 2015 and March 2016.

Bility said that if he were elected he would devolve powers from FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich to give member associations across the world more say in the running of the global game.

The body is FIFA’s main decision-making body and its president, eight vice-presidents and 15 members are elected by the congress.

– ‘Give it to us’ –

Bility also vowed to ensure the budget would “become transparent on the internet (so) that every member association will be able to view”, although the governing body already does this.

A detailed financial report including an income statement and balance sheet for 2011-14 and a detailed 2016 budget is available on the organisation’s website.

Bility, who has an economics degree, has been involved in his own controversy, having been banned briefly from football in 2013 after the Confederation of African Football accused him of breaking confidentiality rules.

But he also boasts a track record as a successful businessman and diplomat as head of Liberian petroleum importer Srimex, chairman of a government land commission and an aid to Amos Sawyer, the head of the national unity government in the early 1990s.

“It is a difficult time for FIFA so… it is in difficult moments that great leaders emerge,” Bility said.

“It is time for Africa to show greatness, it is time for Africa to be what they want to be.”

In an interview which is likely to be seen by supporters and rivals as disarmingly candid, Bility told AFP he did not believe he was “the best that the continent has”, admitting he would support any other African candidate he considered more worthy.

“I have spoken to many of my colleagues and my decision is welcome in Africa,” he added, however.

“And I intend to take the battle around the world and tell the world that ‘we have allowed you to run football — give it to us, let’s try it’.”

– ‘Africa is ready’ –

He said the continent had proved its credibility as a global leader in football with the “best World Cup ever” in South Africa in 2010.

“We can produce in this continent the best leadership that the world needs and we are ready for it,” he said.

US authorities are investigating more than $150 million of bribes to top FIFA officials while Swiss authorities are looking into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.

European members of FIFA led a campaign for Blatter to stand down, which he promised to do four days after being re-elected last month as pressure from the investigations mounted.

Bility said in 2011 he would vote against Blatter in that year’s election, breaking ranks with most of his African counterparts to endorse the Swiss administrator’s challenger, Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam.

But the Liberian told AFP Blatter should not shoulder all the blame for FIFA’s problems.

“I believe that he has done lots of good things for football. Up to this point I have not seen any direct involvement of him in the corruption,” he said.

“But, being the president, whether you did it or not, you take responsibility. He has agreed to take responsibility, he has agreed to go.”

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