Calls for soc­cer re­form in Brazil

FIFA in­dict­ments prompt play­ers, of­fi­cials to urge a cor­rup­tion in­quiry.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Vin­cent Bevins Bevins is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and top for­mer play­ers are call­ing for cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions and re­form of soc­cer in Brazil af­ter the in­dict­ment of high-rank­ing FIFA of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Jose Maria Marin, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Brazil­ian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion.

Marin, who presided over last year’s World Cup tour­na­ment in Brazil, was among the in­ter­na­tional fig­ures re­cently ar­rested in Switzer­land; re­tired star striker Ron­aldo Luis Nazario de Lima, known sim­ply as Ron­aldo, has been one of many to call for Marin’s suc­ces­sor, Marco Polo Del Nero, to re­sign.

Ro­mario de Souza Faria, a for­mer FIFA World Player of the Year who is now a Brazil­ian se­na­tor, called for an of­fi­cial con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion of soc­cer in Brazil. Other law­mak­ers have thrown their sup­port be­hind an in­quiry, pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary signatures for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to begin as soon as next week.

Ro­mario, as he is known in Brazil, summed up the mood in Brazil af­ter FIFA Pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter re­signed last week, days af­ter be­ing re­elected. “All the cor­rupt lead­ers of [soc­cer] con­fed­er­a­tions will feel his fall in the form of a tsunami,” Ro­mario wrote in posts on so­cial net­work sites. “I hope the wa­ters of this great wave are high enough to wash away all the cor­rup­tion.”

Brazil is the only coun­try to have won five World Cups, and soc­cer has long played a key role in the coun­try’s econ­omy and cul­ture. Lead­ers of its lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions have long been sus­pected of wrong­do­ing, yet have man­aged to main­tain con­trol.

Since 2012, a video that ap­pears to show Marin pock­et­ing one of the medals he was hand­ing out to youth play­ers has served to demon­strate the brazen na­ture of the prob­lem here. At the time, Marin re­sponded that the medal was a gift to him from the Brazil­ian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion, or CBF.

Brazil­ian Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff said this week that she sup­ported in­ves­ti­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in soc­cer. How­ever, she said that no one in her na­tion had a mo­tive to bribe FIFA of­fi­cials to win the right to host the 2014 World Cup, as has been sus­pected in the cases of the 2018 and 2022 tour­na­ments planned for Rus­sia and Qatar. Brazil was the only coun­try to of­fi­cially of­fer to host the 2014 tourna- ment.

That event was con­sid­ered a mod­er­ate or­ga­ni­za­tional suc­cess for Brazil, de­spite the host team’s fourth­place fin­ish. But the new sta­di­ums for the 12 host cities, most built at great cost by lo­cal con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, gen­er­ated protests over waste­ful spend­ing, and some have barely been used since the World Cup ended.

In ad­di­tion, sev­eral sta­dium con­struc­tion com­pa­nies have come un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal tied to Brazil’s state-con­trolled oil com­pany, Petrobras.

“The ar­rest of [Marin] could open the door for all the changes that the sport here needs,” said Amir So­moggi, a sports man­age­ment con­sul­tant in Brazil. “The sport hasn’t been grow­ing or de­vel­op­ing as an in­dus­try as a re­sult of the prob­lems of cor­rup­tion.”

De­spite the huge pop­u­lar­ity of soc­cer, at­ten­dance at Brazil league matches has been lower than cor­re­spond­ing matches in the United States. Crit­ics of the sys­tem also point to prob­lems with man­age­ment and club debt.

Del Nero, Marin’s suc­ces­sor, has said he will not re­sign.

Blat­ter suc­ceeded Brazil­ian Joao Have­lange, who ran FIFA from 1974 to 1988. Ac­cord­ing to news re­ports in Brazil, the FBI is in­ves­ti­gat­ing links be­tween FIFA Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Jerome Val­cke and for­mer CBF chief Ri­cardo Teix­eira, who left the post and moved to Miami in 2012. At the time, al­le­ga­tions swirled that Teix­eira — along with his for­mer fa­ther-in-law, Have­lange — took bribes re­lated to World Cup mar­ket­ing rights. No crim­i­nal charges have been filed, but a FIFA ethics re­port said “it is cer­tain” they both took bribes.

“For those that want to change the way Brazil­ian foot­ball is gov­erned, this in­ter­na­tional cri­sis for FIFA could not have come at a bet­ter time,” said Juca Kfouri, a Brazil­ian sports com­men­ta­tor. “Up un­til now, the abil­ity of dirty of­fi­cials in Brazil­ian soc­cer to sur­vive has been un­end­ing.”

Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

MARCO POLO DEL NERO, Brazil­ian Soc­cer Con­fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent, has de­fied calls to re­sign.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.