CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Namibian judge Petrus Damaseb will bring a keen legal mind and a fanatical interest in football to his role at the weekend in presiding over the latest crisis at FIFA, according to close colleagues.
The 48-year-old president of his country’s High Court will chair FIFA’s Ethics Committee’s hearing on Sunday into allegations against Mohamed bin Hammam, who is due to challenge Sepp Blatter for FIFA’s presidency on Wednesday, and fellow Executive Committee member and CONCACAF president Jack Warner.
As deputy chairman of the Ethics Committee he will take charge of the hearing because Swiss chairman Claudio Sulser has excused himself on the grounds he shares Swiss nationality with president Blatter.
Damaseb, who served for six years as president of Namibia’s football association, will hear submissions from FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer, the general secretary of CONCACAF, who has reported his regional president Warner and Bin Hammam over possible breaches of FIFA’s code of ethics at a meeting in the West Indies earlier this month.
The outcome of the hearing will have a huge bearing on the 62-year-old Qatari’s efforts to unseat current FIFA president Blatter in the election on June 1 and has been described as the start of a “civil war” within world soccer’s governing body.
“If there is any man who can deal with this matter with a firm hand and in a honest fashion then it is Damaseb,” said Namibian FA general secretary Barry Rukoro on Wednesday.
“He has been in this kind of situation before when he oversaw the battle for succession of the governing Swapo party in Namibia and he handled a potentially contentious and controversial situation between powerful politicians with a great maturity.”
Damaseb, who played at one of Namibia’s top clubs Chiefs Santos, studied at Warwick University in England on a United Nations scholarship after fleeing his country as a teenager to join its struggle for independence from South Africa.
After 1990 he returned to work in the new Namibian government before going into private practice and then being named a judge of the high court in 2004.
“The changes he has made to the structures of the high court have all been for the good and he enjoys wide respect for his work,” said Natasha Bassingthwaighte, chairman of the Law Society of Namibia.
Damaseb is also on the appeal board of the Confederation of African Football.
“He is no longer that involved in local football anymore but we still see him at our games. His family still own a club in the third division here called Chelsea,” added Rukoro in a telephone interview from Windhoek.