CaribZone Commentary: Aubrey Campbell –Wednesday, March 30th
Hump Day’ it is, gentle folks, and another opportunity to survey the universe. Surely our God is merciful! Allah Akbar!
I fool you not, March is cooked, done, gone! While making the rounds Monday and yesterday, I stumbled on an article in the Los Angeles Times, confirming something that I know for quite some time now, but yet each day and with each new revelation, my reaction is one of ‘baffled’ and bewilderment.
Believe me, the chickens are coming home to roost and will be, long before the first flight arrived in Moscow in two years time.
Here’s the full, unedited report (italicized for emphasis) from the LA Times and with their very kind permission.
“A former president of Honduras pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on Monday and admitted to taking bribes in the wide-ranging FIFA soccer scandal over lucrative broadcast rights.
Rafael Callejas, a member of FIFA’s television and marketing committee, entered the plea to racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy in federal court in Brooklyn. Each charge includes a maximum of 20 years in prison; he also agreed to forfeit $650,000.
He told the judge that he had accepted bribes and distributed some of the money to others. He said he knew it was wrong.
Callejas, who was president of Honduras from 1990-94, will be sentenced Aug. 5.
Initial arrests in the case last May resulted in charges against 14 people, including seven top FIFA officials arrested at a Swiss hotel.
His surrender came after 16 additional defendants, most from Central and South America, were charged in the fall in a second wave of the prosecution that focused on a generation of soccer leaders in South America, a bedrock of FIFA and World Cup history.
In that crackdown, five current and former members of FIFA’s ruling executive committee were arrested at the same Zurich hotel where the similar raid on FIFA officials occurred a half-year earlier.
Those arrests came just before FIFA’s executive committee met to approve reform and transparency measures that gained support after the scandal was revealed.
In all, about 20 soccer officials have been indicted on charges related to the U.S. investigation of corruption in the sport.
An indictment returned in Brooklyn in November charged Callejas in a bribery scheme involving lucrative broadcasting and hosting rights for the World Cup and soccer’s other biggest events.
In a lengthy indictment, prosecutors allege that hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal payments made over the past quarter-century involved the use of U.S. banks and meetings in the United States.
The Justice Department has said that numerous guilty pleas in the case have resulted in agreements to forfeit more than $190 million, and an additional $100 million has been frozen in the U.S. and abroad. The U.S. has sought to freeze assets in 13 countries.”
The impact of this investigation is having a devastating effect on the sport, if nowhere else, certainly in this hemisphere.
We are still seeing the destruction of Brazilian soccer from two summers ago and now, comes this near fatal news, from the very top of the empire, right, smack in the middle or regional qualifying competition.
It is therefore not hard to see why the top teams are struggling, Brazil, USA, Jamaica, to find a footing and hopefully, a place among the final 32.
If you follow the sport like I do, it is hard not to conclude that the games and the results we are seeing, mirror a disturbing and dysfunctional dynamic that have everyone wondering when will it end.
The US Justice Department (DOJ) now in the role of the surgeon general, must act fast, not only from the perspective that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, but more so from the standpoint that it has to arrest and trap any further spread of this big ‘C’.
The fact that FIFA, the world governing body of/for the sports of soccer (Football) was always awash in money, is no recipe for the wanton disregard for propriety and fairness by those invested with the authority to govern.
So now, there is a halo over those who are seemingly untouched by the deepening scandal. We already know why ‘Uncle Jack’ was able to climb so quickly and stay atop the CONCACAF beanstalk for so long, unaware that a very jealous ‘Uncle Sam’ was watching. Chuck Blazer, a son of Uncle Sam, help him to navigate the house rules! Callejas, the same thing.
Monies were reportedly siphoned off into regional accounts. Those too, are being eyed for recall and restitution. I have no doubt that some of that money was earmarked for reconstruction and development of soccer in Haiti, after the devastation of the January 2010, earthquake.
From time to time, we hear of players, the million dollar babies of the sport, throwing tantrums because the helper/housekeeper is short-changing and misappropriating the milk money. Tantrums that the child psychologist with later diagnose as youthful exuberance that should be excused as/for ignorance!
I have argued, well, maybe not argued because I’m not into the confrontation stuff. I have ‘conversed’ in this space before that if FIFA has all that money sitting in a supposedly development fund, why is soccer in the CONCACAF region still so far behind South America, not to mention Europe?
If it’s sitting there, doing nothing, then there will be the urge to splurge on; Mediterranean cruises, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, lunch on caviar and champagne, buying votes, suppressing opposition, all while the world’s most popular sport, barring none, continues to languish. SMH
Here’s a question or two, for you. How do you pay someone $2 million for work done without an invoice and a receipt? And how do you pay the head of an organization $4 million and report a loss of $120 million?
Ready for the answer? When you are Michel Platini, head of the all powerful, all conquering Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and when you are Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA.
Sadly, gladly, both have been removed from the sport and told to stay away for good. Callejas will know his fate on August 5, one day before Jamaica celebrates her 54th Anniversary of Independence. Jeffrey Webb is holed up in a Georgia suburb, adorned with a fancy, hi tech ankle bracelet and ‘Uncle Jack’ continues to fight like the warrior he is.
The sport is still in surgery. A new brain was put in last February. Gianni Infantio has a lot to do, including nursing the organization back to a state of trust and respect.
Only time will tell.
That’s today’s conversation. You have the last word. And while you are at it, congrats to Jamaica, champions of regional junior track & field athletics and Team West Indies, into the semi-final round to the ICC World T20 Championships, in progress in India.
As always, thanks for being a part of the conversation. Let’s hear from you, share your thoughts.