A few decades ago, Latin America and FIFA began a love story that endures today. Through the Machiavellian maneuvers of Brazilian FIFA President Joao Havelange, a legacy of corruption that began in the heart of South America has spread throughout the world of soccer.
Here, we revisit six FIFA fouls in Latin America that demonstrate FIFA’s shady ways.
The Salvadoran Football Federation (FESFUT) Case
In 2009, Rodrigo Calvo resigned as president of Salvadoran Football Federation (FESFUT) amid allegations of embezzlement. The government called him to court, but FIFA ordered the Salvadoran government to drop the process. At the same time, FIFA began a process to call elections for a new president, and sent a special commission to El Salvador which happened to have been created by the freshly-resigned Calvo.
When El Salvador’s government didn’t recognize that special commission, FIFA suspended the Salvadorian Football Federation (FESFUT). As punishment, players, referees, and the national were not permitted to compete at international tournaments at any age level. In addition, the national league was not recognized by FIFA.
“FIFA considers these facts to be a clear interference on the part of the government. Based on these serious facts, the emergency committee of FIFA has decided on a suspension with immediate effect,” stated Reynaldo Vázquez, president of the Emergency Committee, at a press conference.
Apparently, FIFA felt it was above the law, and that the government had no right to intervene in any decisions regarding the organization’s affiliates.
Eventually El Salvador caved in to FIFA’s pressure and the government retracted their decision.
Bribery in Brazil
Joao Havelange’s son in law Ricardo Teixeira served as president of the Brazilian Football Confederation for 24 years. The two routinely accepted bribes and handed out favors, as reported by several sources. In his book “Foul!: the Secret World of FIFA,” for example, British journalist Andrew Jennings reported that ISL, a sports marketing company, bribed the two Brazilian officials in order to obtain the transmission rights of several World Cups.
The same journalist accused Teixeira of favoring certain construction companies for the building of new soccer stadiums for Brazil 2014.
Teixeira resigned from presidency but never faced any corruption charges.
Amiguismo in Mexico
FIFA has a long history of favoring close allies and friends. Take Mexican TV network Televisa for example; its founder and owner, Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, established a very important partnership with FIFA through his brother in law, ex-soccer player Guillermo Cañedo, who was very close friends with FIFA president Joao Havalange.
Cañedo served as FIFA Vice President for many years and helped Televisa obtain World Cup transmission rights and brought the tournament to Mexico for a second time.
In 1982, Colombia renounced its spot as host of the 1986 World Cup, so FIFA called for a new democratic process to find the new hosts.
The United States made an attempt to present the best bid in the supposedly fair election, but in a very murky process, Joao Havalange seemed to choose Mexico on his own in order to favor his close friend Guillermo Cañedo.
After losing the bid, Time Warner president Steve Ross, a great promoter of soccer in the United States at the time, quit the soccer business.
Then, one year before the Mexico World Cup was slated, Mexico City was destroyed with the 1985 earthquake. Despite this being one, if not the biggest natural disaster in the country’s history, the plan to host the tournament was not altered.
Butting Heads Over Beer
FIFA Vice President Jerome Valcke was involved in a controversy during the planning of the Brazil 2014 World Cup. When asked by a reporter how Brazil’s ban of alcohol in soccer stadiums would affect FIFA’s sponsorship contract with Budweiser, Valcke stated that the selling of alcohol in stadiums was nonnegotiable; beer would be sold no matter what.
Simply put, FIFA does not negotiate.
House of Cards Style Maneuvering
Ex-CONCACAF president Jack Warner is no saint. He too held the confederations iron throne for many years and was accused of corrupt activities several times. His biggest mistake however, was to support Mohammed bin Hammam in his candidacy for FIFA president.
Four years ago, bin Hammam was a candidate for FIFA president. In order to try to secure his election, he gave money to Warner and all Caribbean presidents in exchange for votes.
We know the history, Blatter defeated bin Hammam. After his reelection, he retaliated against Warner for his attempted coup by creating an Executive Ethics Committee that suspended Warner from the world of football for four years.
Lack of Transparency in Argentina
Julio Grondona, FIFA Vice President and AFA (Argentine Football Federation) president for 35 years, died last year. In 2011 he was accused of both selling the Argentine local league’s TV transmission rights to his friends, and of illicitly lining his pockets with up to 30 million dollars.
There was never an investigation into how he acquired his money, nor how he managed to remain AFA president for so many years without ever having faced opposition during elections.