Brazil may produce the best players, but also most venal and corrupt administrators
Nation’s beautiful game tarnished by those who care nothing of its legacy
Greg Clarke might be forgiven for feeling a little under-appreciated when he takes his seat in the Royal Box at Wembley on Tuesday night. But if the chairman of the Football Association considers himself embattled then he should take a look at his Brazilian counterpart.
Not that it will be possible to do so, because Marco Polo del Nero, the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), will not be at Wembley. He might have the name of a famous explorer but currently the 76-year-old is not travelling outside of Brazil on his lawyers’ advice. To do so would be to risk arrest and extradition to the United States, where he has been indicted by the FBI on the investigation into corruption and fraud two years ago. Since then he has not even risked a weekend mini-break in Paraguay.
The return to Wembley of the Brazil team, those purveyors of o jogo bonito is always a cause for celebration. Since being hammered 7-1 by Germany in Belo Horizonte three summers ago they have dipped into their own vast resources of native footballers and emerged anew. Fifa’s top-ranked side have Gabriel Jesus at centre-forward, Casemiro in midfield and so much choice elsewhere that there is not even a guaranteed starting place for Philippe Coutinho.
Yet just as Brazil produces the greatest footballers in the world in jaw-dropping quantities year after year, it is also cursed with producing the most venal and corrupt sporting administrators in what is an admittedly crowded field.
While Del Nero plays it safe in Brazil, his predecessor Jose Maria Marin, an 85-year-old former politician, is one of three South American football executives who will go on trial on Monday in a Brooklyn court in New York City charged with corruption and fraud. Marin has been living under house arrest in his Trump Tower apartment but if he is found guilty there is every chance that he will die in a US jail.
The former CBF president Ricardo Teixeira, who reigned for 23 years, is also unable to leave Brazil for fear of extradition to Spain or the US. His former business partner Sandro Rosell, once president of Barcelona, was arrested in Spain in May on money-laundering charges. Teixeira was one of the big beasts of that Fifa executive committee that carved up the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the appetite to see the 70-year-old face justice is such that rather than try to bring him to Spain’s courts, Spain courts may instead go to him.
There is no extradition facility for Brazilian citizens in the Brazilian constitution so the Spanish attorney general has proposed that the country hands its corruption case over to its counterparts in Brasilia to prosecute Teixeira themselves.
Such is the anti-Fifa sentiment in Brazil, that there is a public wave of support behind the move.
The Brazilian investigative journalist Jamil Chade, who has been responsible for uncovering the latest Teixeira scandal, says that the only worthwhile legacy of the 2014 World Cup, of which Marin headed the organising committee, and the Rio Olympics of 2016, has been greater public political consciousness. Chade says: “The perception of the
In a spot of extreme opportunism last month, there was a letter from shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan to the Football Association, signed by 138 MPs, asking that unsold tickets for England games be given away for free.
Despite the fact that the FA gave away 7,000 tickets to schools and community groups for the underattended World Cup qualifier against Slovenia, with all the problems that creates with fans who pay face value, that was not enough for the MPs in question.
There is also the issue that many population regarding politicians and sports officials is that we were betrayed.” The legacy in terms of financial benefit or infrastructure is non-existent.
Chade’s new book Politica, Propina e Futebol – Politics, Bribes and Football – details the dismal aftermath of the 2014 finals in a country where there is already so much poverty.
For every $9 spent on staging the tournament, the official estimates are that $8 came from public coffers. There is no public provision of organised sport with those who can afford it paying for them and their families to participate.
Chade says that of the 12 new stadiums constructed, only six remain financially viable. The 40,549 capacity Arena Amazonia, where England began their short-lived campaign against Italy, is so expensive to run that the gate revenue does not cover the cost of turning on the lights for night matches.
The stadiums in Brasilia, Natal and Cuiaba are white elephants with reports two years ago that the changing rooms in Cuiaba, a remote area without a famous club, are being used by the homeless.
Yet for Chade the saddest stories are the marquee venues of Sao Paulo, where the first game of the tournament was played, and the famous Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which staged the final. There is no team in the Maracana with Flamengo, the obvious choice, playing their games elsewhere. The Sao Paulo venue, which suffered deaths of workers during its construction, is now the home of Corinthians but is a financial burden, costing more to run than can be generated in revenue.
The old men who are alleged to have organised this corrupt World Cup are yet to face justice. The people bear the cost. Only the team in yellow jerseys carry the flag. “At the final Fifa press conference in 2014 I asked Sepp Blatter what we were going to do with the stadiums that had been built,” Chade says. “With his lips tight shut he just held up his forefinger and drew a question mark in the air.” people who are given free tickets often simply do not turn up – a strange quirk of human nature, but an accepted fact among those who market football matches for a living.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing else of importance currently going on in Westminster that requires MPs’ attention, so no doubt these keen students of international attendances will be all over Scotland’s friendly with Holland on Thursday.
The Scottish FA did not sell out the 20,961 capacity Pittodrie, attracting a crowd of 17,883. One can only assume the letter is in the post.
A handful: Brazil are blessed with the likes of Gabriel Jesus but cursed by corruption