Fifa’s iceberg is melting


Look, we will never know whether England, led by the irrepressible Steven Gerrard, would have rallied a la Istanbul and gone on to beat Germany had the referee spotted Lampard’s goal. The one result is that Sepp Blatter has agreed to re-open the file on goal technology after years of refusing to entertain such debate.

John Kotter has written a delightful little book, in the tradition of Who moved my cheese?, both of which I recommend to cabinet and board rooms all over the country.

It is titled Our Iceberg is melting and it chronicles how a penguin discovers that the entire colony is in danger of losing their home and how he goes about with other penguins, convincing the rest of the colony, especially their own version of Fifa head office, that they need to recognise reality and embrace change.

They expect a provisional income of $3,2 billion, but Fifa has been caught off side more times than Drogba and Eto’ O combined in this world cup. According to The Star’s Business Report, “In the run-up to the World Cup there were several protests by street vendors, who accused Fifa of barring them from trading near the World Cup venues through strict marketing rules.

Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the move by Fifa to set up exclusion zones near the World Cup stadiums was a human rights issue that needed to be addressed.”

Follow that up with the ruthlessness with which Fifa has pursued small and giant businesses for ambush marketing, the most famous of which is of course the arrest of the Dutch ladies in Orange dresses which led to massive free marketing for Bavaria. It was like arresting Mother Theresa for wearing Lady Diana’s outfits!

A caller to a radio station says he bought a case of Bavaria which he was going to share with mates just to support the ladies. Guess which tastes better, Bavaria or Budweiser? Fifa, losing the PR war on and off the pitch, dropped the charges after an international outcry.

Will Orange dresses be banned at the next World Cup? Helen Zille, leader of South Africa’s opposition and premier of the Western Cape publicly declared, in an interview with the Sunday Times that her only regret was that she did not stand up more to Fifa.

Whatever the commercial success of this edition of the World Cup, Fifa’s has not endeared itself to the locals, the English and the Mexicans. Even scientists have joined the Jabulani debate, giving the ball the thumbs down as “too perfect” to be good enough for a tournament.

Just how Fifa refuses to listen to the best soccer players and coaches on the planet on this question is mind boggling. Their iceberg is melting. Corporate citizenship is about making money today without compromising the ability of future generations to do so.

For Brazil 2014, a country that is demographically and economically very similar to South Africa, Fifa will have to ring the changes in the way they approach the small business person, the subject of goal line technology and the fans because the Orange dresses will certainly be there and this time they will not need a 5mm Bavaria logo!

More importantly, they will have to listen to the people who ply their trade week in, week out on the soccer pitch on whether the tournament ball is good enough or not.

The sport comes first!

What about you? Is your iceberg in good condition? Whether you are a political party leader, a member of an executive management team or simply in your individual capacity, have you recognised the fissures and rivulets that threaten to melt your iceberg? It could be a decision as simple as buying surge protectors for the freezers in your store to protect them from the irregular power supply, as a friend is doing, or it could be listening to the dissenting voices on your team, the ones who tell you what you need to, rather than what you want to hear.

A dissenting voice is not the enemy, it is those who say to you, “we are doing fine, we do not need to change!” — who are the real enemy given Zimbabwe’s current circumstances. In the UK, unelected Gordon Brown refused to listen to the voices of dissent within his party as far back as mid 2008, preferring instead to dismiss rebellious activities as a “form of silliness” and this eventually allowed the Tories to sneak in via coalition with the liberals.

Similarly, Yahoo Founder and CEO Jerry Yang was forced to lose his position as CEO because he failed to read the writing on his PC screen. The University of Life offers us these lessons for free and we do not always heed them (despite Gordon Brown’s Phd in History) because it is a significant part of human nature not to do so.

This is where innerzela (inspiration and discipline) comes in. Easy to write about, of course, but not easy to implement but the fact that there are those who implement it, is cause for hope. That is why we continue to write about “lighting a candle, instead of cursing the darkness”… because as NewsDay readers know, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another.”

Albert Gumbo is a fellow of the Duke University-UCT US-Southern Africa centre for Leadership and Public values. He writes in his private capacity and can be reached on