jeudi 28 juin 2012

Burundi: African 'Princess' in Top Fifa Position.


For  a century, Football is a macho club.

After more than a century as a men-only club, FIFA’s Executive Committee finally has a female member. Lydia Nsekera, president of the Burundian Football Association, joined professional football’s highest body last month. “I hope we’ll see more women holding top positions in football in the future”, she says.
         She parks her Mercedes in the tall grass in front of the Burundi Football Association (FFB), because the parking lot is full. Lydia Nsekera may be the mightiest woman in world football, but she doesn’t have a driver or a dedicated parking spot in front of her office.           
She is tall, modestly clad and welcomes us with a broad smile.
         Burundi’s national team was eliminated in the Africa Cup qualifiers, by Zimbabwe last weekend. “Unfortunate indeed”, says Lydia, “since we had beaten them at home. But away in Harare we conceded two goals so we are out now.”
         Nsekera, 45, was born into a football crazy family. “My father was a club president. At home we talked about two things: history and football. So the love for the game developed automatically.”
         But despite this love, she never took to the pitch as a child herself. “When I was young that was a large taboo; football was a game for men and not for women. The first female football teams in Burundi only came in the early 1990s.”

Football and war.

         Burundi’s most recent civil war began in 1993 and lasted some 12 years with an estimated 300,000 casualties. Yet football continued says Nsekera.
         “During the war I attended matches in Kinama, which was really one of the hotspots. But nothing ever happened that disturbed the competition. Everybody loved it: both the rebels and the government forces. The current president Pierre Nkurunziza, is a football fan too, and he himself is a former rebel leader.”
         By that time, Lydia was already working for the FFB. “In 2004 the association was electing a new president. But there were lots of internal power struggles going on. Then I was asked to run for president. I competed with two men and to my surprise I won nearly all the votes.”
         When asked if she is the only female football president in Africa she clarifies: “Not only in Africa. In the whole world!”

An example for the world.

         The world football body elected Nsekera as a board member on 25 May. FIFA president Sepp Blatter described her as ‘a princess’
. He added that ‘she is a lovely lady, but she can also be tough.’
         FIFA’s Executive Committee has faced repeated accusations of corruption. Responding to the criticism Nsekera says “a process to create more transparency is under way.”
         “Let Burundi now be an example for the world,” Nsekera concludes. “We are a small country, not very rich. This is a place where women are not considered for their true value. And yet in this country, forty-five men chose a woman to lead the football association.” And now for the first time in its 108-year history, FIFA can also benefit from a woman’s touch.
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Article of Arme Doornebal (28) published by Allafrica.com.
Arme Doornebal is a free lance journalist & fotograph from Neederlands. He is based in  Kampala.

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