Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


FOUR MORE YEARS OF NON-TRANSPARENCY

Weeks of intrigue, finger-pointing and threats came to an anticlimactic conclusion as Sepp Blatter, running unopposed, was re-elected to a fourth four-year term as FIFA president by a 186-17 vote in Zurich during the world soccer governing body’s 61st Congress.

Blatter’s path was cleared three days earlier when his only challenger, Asian confederation chief Mohamed bin Hammam, was suspended from soccer activities in the wake of an accusation by CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer that he had attempted to buy the votes of Caribbean officials at $40,000 apiece. 

The collateral damage included the suspension of CONCACAF president Jack Warner on bribery charges, the firing of Blazer by Warner’s interim successor and his subsequent reinstatement, and the ostracism of the English F.A., whose bid to postpone Blatter’s “coronation” until suitable opposition could be found was soundly quashed, 172-17.  Adding to the turmoil was a call by the head of the German federation, Theo Zwanziger, for a probe into how Bin Hammam’s Qatar defeated the U.S. in December in the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.  [June 1]

Comment:   Don’t look for anything to change over the next four years.  (Also, American dreamers, don’t look for a re-vote on who will host the ’22 World Cup, which the U.S. originally lost, 13-4.)   Blatter, momentarily jostled, is back in the saddle, and there will now be the patching of the cracks, not a razing of the foundation.   One only has to go back to Blatter’s first re-election campaign, which came on the heels of the infamous ISL collaspse, to recall how the FIFA boss, through his rhetoric, managed to drive the word “transparency” into the ground.  Hollow now as it was back then.

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FOUR MORE YEARS

Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, running unopposed, was re-elected unanimously as president of CONCACAF at the regional confederation’s congress in Miami.

Warner, a FIFA vice president and, since 1983, a FIFA Executive Committee member, won his sixth four-year term as CONCACAF supremo.

Junstino Compean, the Mexican Football Federation chief, and Lisle Austin of Barbados were elected vice presidents.  Both ran unopposed.  [May 3]

Comment:  So it’s four more years of the slippery Warner, a man whose transgessions have been well documented. 

Warner’s first great feat came in November 1989, when, as Trinidad & Tobago soccer boss, he had thousands of bogus tickets printed for the World Cup qualifying showdown between T&T and the U.S. in Port of Spain, a game in which Warner’s “Strike Force” needed only a tie to earn a berth in Italia ’90.  T&T lost, of course, on Paul Caligiuri’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” but Warner was on his way.  Already president of the Caribbean Football Union, he won his first term as CONCACAF president the following year.  He has since amassed a fortune estimated at between $20 million and $40 million based solely upon his ostensibly valuable skills as a soccer administrator. 

Warner’s re-election extends a proud tradition in CONCACAF, which will mark its 50th anniversary this year.  For 22 years the North/Central American and Caribbean region was under the dictatorial rule of Warner’s predecessor, Joaquin Soria Terrazas.  For many of those years CONCACAF was headquartered in Guatemala City, which, at the time, had no international airport.  (Warner, to his credit, lifted his kingdom’s profile considerably by moving its offices to Trump Tower in New York.)

Don’t look for Warner to go away any time soon.  CONCACAF has 40 member nations, fully three quarters of them part of the CFU.  As long as Warner looks after them, his reign will be everlasting.



CONCACAF PLUS 3.5 ADDS UP

CONCACAF fell short in its effort to gain an extra berth in the 2014 World Cup as the FIFA Executive Committee decided to give the North/Central America and Caribbean region the same 3.5 spots it was awarded for the 2010 tournament.

Under the allotment, CONCACAF will have three guaranteed spots; the fourth-place finisher in its qualifying competition will have a chance to reach Brasil ’14 through a home-and-home playoff with a nation from another regional confederation.

South America will have 4.5 qualifying berths, plus Brazil’s automatic spot as host.  Europe will keep its 13 berths, and Africa its five.  Once again, Asia will have 4.5 and Oceania 0.5.

One change:  A draw will be held in July to determine the playoff pairings among the CONCACAF fourth-place finisher, South America’s No. 5, Asia’s No. 5 and the Oceania winner.

The outcome, nevertheless, left CONCACAF officials–among them president Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, who said in January that his region would lobby for an outright fourth berth– disappointed, if not angry.  Said CONCACAF Secretary General Chuck Blazer of the U.S., like Warner a FIFA Executive Committee member, “We are 35 members who are very serious about qualifying.  We want to be treated fairly and given enough opportunity to be successful.  Hear us.”  [March 3]

Comment:  Crocodile tears. 

Much can be said about how berths have been doled out since the World Cup expanded from 24 teams to 32 for Francia ’98.  Did Asia, in 2002, deserve two qualifying berths to go along with automatic berths that went to co-hosts Japan and South Korea?  Should Europe, with a high of 15 nations in ’98, continue to watch its presence erode?  When it comes to Africa, which had six total slots at South Africa ’10 and saw only Ghana survive the second round, will FIFA continue to reward that continent based on, presumably, promise alone?

For now, FIFA uncharacteristically got it right, for the most part.  Oceania, which since Australia’s defection to Asia has become New Zealand and the Eight Dwarves, truly does not deserve a straight path to a World Cup.   South America, with Brazil holding one spot, deserves its five qualifying spots.   And CONCACAF, which to most of FIFA is Mexico and the U.S.–plus, depending on the year, Costa Rica or Honduras or Canada or T&T or Jamaica, plus a couple dozen dots in the Caribbean–deserves its 3.5.  

At the last World Cup, the U.S., though first in its group at 1-0-2, and Mexico (second, 1-1-1) and Honduras (0-2-1) failed to turn the tournament on its ear.  CONCACAF’s fourth-place team, Costa Rica, dropped its playoff with Uruguay, although it should be noted that the Uruguayans went on to reach the semifinals.

If CONCACAF wants its fourth, it will have to overwhelm FIFA with its performance in Brazil.  The USA’s appearance in the 2002 quarterfinals won’t do, nor will Mexico’s in 1986, when it was host.  It will take that combined, plus a repeat of Uruguay1930, to do it.  That time, the U.S., 32 years before the founding of CONCACAF, finished third.



TWO BUMPS ON THE ROAD TO 2022

FIFA has provisionally suspended two Executive Committee members in the wake of an alleged World Cup vote-selling scam.

Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, along with four former Executive Committee members, have been barred from soccer-related activities until a probe by the FIFA ethics committee is completed. 

Adamu and Temarii were caught in a videotaped sting staged by The Sunday Times of London.  Posing as representatives of American corporate interests, the Times team offered to buy Adamu’s World Cup vote.  Adamu requested $800,000 for four artificial-turf soccer fields to be built in Nigeria–paid not to his national soccer federation but directly to him.  Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation, had a slightly higher price tag:  $2.3 million, ostensibly to fund a soccer academy in Auckland, New Zealand.  [October 20]

Comment:  So two more men wearing the FIFA blazer have been found to be, allegedly, corrupt.  They join a long list that includes CONCACAF supremo Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago and Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar (World Cup ticket scalping) and FIFA Senior Vice President Julio Grondona of Argentina (TV rights scandals).  Some of this new mud, however, may splatter and soil the U.S. bid for 2022.

It should be noted that the Times‘ sting was executed at a time when the U.S. and England were each bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  If the Times was attempting to scuttle the American bid, it has since become moot with the recent announcements that the U.S. would shoot for 2022 only, the English, ’18.    

Nevertheless, neither Adamu nor Temarii recoiled in shock when presented with the Times’ bribe offers.  That speaks volumes of what the world thinks of what the U.S. is capable of in a high stakes game like the right to host a World Cup, an event in which billions of dollars change hands.  Americans don’t win World Cups, but whenever they play anything, they play to win.  And in the international sports community, the stench from Salt Lake City’s efforts to secure the 2002 Winter Olympic Games still lingers.

Aspersions have been cast.  The efforts of GoUSAbid, based to this point on an overwhelming attack, may now be determined by its ability to hunker down and defend.