There have been many expressions of regret by soccer fans and functionaries across Africa following Sepp Blatter's announcement that he will step down as as president of FIFA later this year.
If there was one thing Sepp Blatter could be sure of during his nearly 18 years as FIFA president, it was that he had the support of African soccer. The continent's governing soccer body CAF, and its individual 54 voting members, has repeatedly expressed thanks and appreciation for Blatter's contribution to the sport in Africa. The CAF website carries an interview with the body's president and senior vice president of FIFA, Issa Hayatou from Cameroon, in which he says: "What made us support Sepp Blatter is that he has truly helped the African continent. By allocating the 2010 World Cup [to South Africa], by the various training courses he organised, by the various sporting facilities constructed. All of this rallied the continent to support his cause. There is nothing more, contrary to what is believed."
Blatter announced his decision to step down on Tuesday, just four days after being re-elected FIFA president for a fifth time.
For CAF, at least officially, Blatter remains untainted by all the allegations of corruption that are swirling around and by the naming of various FIFA officials implicated in a US probe. The probe includes allegations that FIFA forwarded a 10 million dollar (8.9 million euros) payment from South Africa to an account controlled by former top FIFA executive Jack Warner of Trinidad in connection with South Africa's bid to host the 2010 World Cup.
'No bribe' says South Africa
At a press conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday, South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula denied that any bribe had been paid. "I can today unequivocally state, for all to know, that this payment was not a bribe," he said.
Mbalula confirmed the contents of a leaked letter from the South African Football Association which said money originally intended for organising the 2010 World cup had been paid directly to Warner. But Mbalula said the payment was never intended as a bribe to secure the right to host the 2010 tournament as described in the US indictment. He said it had been given as a donation to support the building of a soccer center for people of African descent in the Caribbean.
The minister made an appeal to "all to desist from commenting on the matter, to afford the national government an opportunity to address the matter through diplomatic channels." He also called on "all those who have any information on the matter to come forward and share with us." South Africa is still waiting for the US to provide further details of the bribery allegations.
The vice president of the Angolan soccer federation FAF, Nando Jordao, said that in large organisations such as FIFA there will always be a certain amount of corruption. "No one familiar with the world of international soccer can say he knew nothing. This also applies to UEFA President Michel Platini who now appears to be so surprised to learn of corruption within FIFA. This was clear to everyone," Jordao told DW. He believes FIFA needs to be completely reformed. "Every FIFA functionary, without exception, must resign and be replaced." However, even this would only be a temporary solution, Jordao fears. "In 20 years we would again have a corrupt FIFA because there is simply so much power and money involved."
Tough job for successor
Cameroonian national football functionary Kaba Christopher said his first reaction to the news of Blatter's resignation had been one of astonishment. "But then I said, if he has done that for the sake of the good of the game, so that world football should forge ahead and be more interesting than it was before, then it should be a good thing. I have the impression that it is better for you to kick the crowd before the crowd kicks you," he told DW's correspondent in Yaounde.
Cameroon's former star striker Roger Milla, who played in three World Cups, expressed regret that Blatter has thrown in the towel.
"I think it is a great shame that he is leaving in this manner. But now that he is no longer there, we must find someone more competent, someone who listens to everyone, someone who tries to deal with all the failings within African soccer - I stress, all failings, especially within the Cameroonian soccer federation. Blatter has made his decision and we have to respect that. I would like to say 'Bravo' for everything he has done for soccer," Milla said.
Among the many comments from DW listeners and users are several from Africa. Opinions are divided between support for Blatter and suspicions that he may be directly involved in corruption after all. Mwalimu Kenedy Mpemba from Kahama in Tanzania thinks he should have stepped down earlier. "The resignation of Joseph Blatter as FIFA president raises a lot of questions which go unanswered. Something smells fishy. Why did he vie for the presidency if he was tired of governing? It would have been better if he hadn't because so much time and money has gone to waste."
But for the time being, Blatter remains in charge until a successor is elected. During his final months as FIFA president he says he intends to focus on "driving far- reaching, fundamental reforms that transcend our previous efforts."
DW's Johannesburg correspondent says reactions from the general public in Africa's only World Cup host nation are mixed. While there some who think Blatter stayed at the helm for too long, "many praise him, saying he single-handedly fought and made sure the FIFA World Cup came to Africa for the first time and he will forever be respected in South Africa and the whole continent for that."