In­fantino op­posed block­ing Mutko

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

A fired FIFA of­fi­cial tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day that he banned Vi­taly Mutko from soc­cer’s rul­ing coun­cil af­ter re­sist­ing strong pres­sure from the FIFA lead­er­ship, which warned the World Cup in Rus­sia would be a “dis­as­ter” and Gianni In­fantino’s pres­i­dency could be jeop­ar­dized. Miguel Maduro pro­vided an ac­count to Bri­tish leg­is­la­tors of the pres­sures he en­dured from the FIFA hi­er­ar­chy dur­ing less than a year chair­ing the gov­er­nance com­mit­tee be­fore be­ing abruptly re­moved from his post in May.

The big­gest call of Maduro’s ten­ure was to pre­vent Mutko, a Rus­sian deputy prime min­is­ter who is also head of the 2018 World Cup or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, from seek­ing re-elec­tion to the FIFA Coun­cil on grounds of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

“With the ex­cep­tion of that case in gen­eral, the pres­i­dent did not try to in­flu­ence our de­ci­sions,” Maduro told the sports com­mit­tee at the House of Com­mons. “He would tran­sit to me some­times those de­ci­sions were not well ac­cepted but in that case there was an at­tempt to in­flu­ence that de­ci­sion.”

It came in March just as Rus­sia was pre­par­ing to host a World Cup warm-up tour­na­ment, where In­fantino met with Mutko and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. “(In­fantino) ex­pressed con­cerns about the im­pact of the de­ci­sion (to ban Mutko) on the World Cup,” Maduro said. “He was very clear about that.”

FIFA sec­re­tary gen­eral Fatma Samoura went fur­ther to Maduro. “The sec­re­tary gen­eral made it clear to me that it was ex­tremely prob­lem­atic,” Maduro said. “More than that, she said we needed to find a so­lu­tion to de­clare Mr. Mutko el­i­gi­ble be­cause oth­er­wise the pres­i­dency it­self would be in ques­tion, the World Cup would be a dis­as­ter, that was her view, and the con­tin­ued pres­i­dency of Mr. In­fantino would also be in ques­tion.”

Mutko’s con­tin­ued po­si­tion of power within FIFA was also un­der scru­tiny af­ter he was di­rectly im­pli­cated in the state­spon­sored dop­ing scan­dal in Rus­sia. Maduro said In­fantino be­lieves there is “no ev­i­dence” Mutko is in­volved in the Rus­sian dop­ing scan­dal.

The hear­ing at the Bri­tish par­lia­ment be­gan with com­mit­tee chair­man Damian Collins dis­clos­ing cor­re­spon­dence from FIFA block­ing ousted in­ves­ti­ga­tor Cor­nel Bor­bely from tak­ing ques­tions from leg­is­la­tors.

Samoura wrote to Collins warn­ing that Bor­bely is pre­vented from ap­pear­ing at the dig­i­tal, cul­ture, me­dia and sport com­mit­tee be­cause he is still bound by the FIFA ethics code and Swiss civil and crim­i­nal law. — AP

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