Footballing lessonsJan 31st, 2010 | By Ian Poulton | Category: International
Lazing on the settee, watching Egypt beat Ghana 1-0 to become African football champions for the third time in a row, there was a lesson in African politics.
It seemed odd that the tournament should have been played in Angola, one of the poorest nations on Earth in terms of human development. Go to Google Earth and type in ‘Luanda’ and look at the place. There would have been considerably greater priorities in the country than providing stadia for an international football tournament.
FIFA’s insistence that governments not be allowed to interfere with football was mocked by a huge banner of the hideously corrupt Angolan president hanging from the stand behind one of the goals. Mr Blatter seemed blind to the fact that the politicians had taken charge of this event.
The politicians were in charge to the extent that many of the crowd did not arrive at the stadium until well into the second half. The BBC commentator explained that when the president travelled around, all the roads were sealed off. The president’s presence at the match meant that anyone who had not arrived long before him could not proceed to the ground until long after he had arrived.
The president has been president since 1979, though thirty years in power is not long enough for him. He has now brought about changes in the constitution to strengthen his position
The president was brought to power by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a movement which seems chiefly to have liberated large amounts of cash for its leaders.
The MPLA had been involved in a protracted an bloody conflict with its opponent UNITA; MPLA victory brought unfettered freedom to rip off the country. Richard Dowden, author of “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” writes:
And the victors? The MPLA now showed itself in all its greed and corruption. The word ‘corruption’ suggests a functioning system has rotted. In parts of Africa, corruption, like an advanced form of cancer, has taken over the whole body. It is the system. As John Robertson, a Zimbabwean economist, says, ‘We imagine corruption to be like a tick on a dog. There are some places in Africa where the tick is bigger than the dog.’
Angola’s few principled Marxists were sidelined or retired. Those who remain in government call themselves ‘pragmatic’. Many them are extremely wealthy. The IMF says that between 1996 and 2001 nearly 40 per cent of state expenditure was not accounted for and that in 2001 nearly $1 billion went missing from government accounts. Not much had changed by 2006 when Angola’s income leapt to over $30 billion – derived from 585 million barrels of oil. In that year, Africa – the whole continent – received $32.62 billion aid. And according to the IMF, Angola is expected to grow by 15-20 per cent a year for the next decade and maybe beyond. But the money stays with the top 5 per cent of the population. Spread out, among all Angolans each one would receive about $2000 a year, putting it 63rd in the list of countries ranked by income per head and above Romania. But in the Human Development Index, Angola lies at 161st place out of 177 countries, and falling. Ninety-five per cent of Angola’s 16 million people live on less than a dollar a day.
Are Sepp Blatter and FIFA not aware of the nature of the people with whom they deal, or do they just not care?