[FIFA] In the biggest political victory of his career, Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, defeated his Mexican
soccer federation counterpart, Justino Compean, 18-17, to win the FIFA executive committee seat from Concacaf's North America region being vacated by former
Concacaf general secretary Chuck Blazer in May.
North America: Gulati 2-1
Central America: Compean 7-0
Caribbean: Gulati 16-9
The 53-year-old Gulati's victory means American soccer retains its seat on the FIFA executive committee, the most important body in world soccer. Mexico had sought to regain the seat previously held by the powerful Guillermo Canedo until his death in 1987.
Gulati is the whiz kid of American soccer who in his 20's built the U.S. national team program in the late 1980s into what it is today and later stocked MLS with the American and foreign stars he signed for its launch in 1996. But political victories have not always come as easily for Gulati, who currently teaches in the economics department at Columbia University.
Gulati surprisingly failed in his first bid at elected office in 1998 when he lost to John Motta, a New Hampshire Dunkin' Donuts franchise owner and an official of the New Hampshire Soccer Association, by 11 votes 372-361 for the position of U.S. Soccer executive vice president.
The loss was seen a rebuke by some in the rank and file of MLS's influence in U.S. Soccer -- Gulati still worked for MLS as its deputy commissioner -- and Gulati's perceived arrogance.
Two years later, Gulati defeated Motta and then was unopposed in 2006 when he was elected U.S. Soccer president for the first time.
Perhaps the biggest "loss" of Gulati's soccer career came in 2010 when Qatar stunned the USA by winning the right to organize the 2022 World Cup. Gulati had headed the U.S. bid committee.
CARIBBEAN SUPPORT. Gulati won with what was believed to be overwhelming support from Concacaf's Caribbean members who dominate the confederation with 25 of 35 members.
That was seen as something of a surprise given that so many Caribbean members had been implicated -- and later suspended -- in the 2011 Caribbean bribery scandal that resulted in the resignation of Concacaf president Jack Warner.
The Trinidadian exited all his official duties in international soccer in 2011 after Blazer, Warner's long-time ally, turned against Warner with allegations of corruption against him and other Caribbean officials in the aftermath of Qatari Mohammed bin Hamman's bid to unseat FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Jeffrey Webb, who succeeded Warner as Concacaf president, told The Associated Press in March that resentment against Blazer, who blew the whistle on Warner and led FIFA to investigate more than 20 Caribbean soccer officials, might work against Gulati in his election against Compean.
(Gulati and Blazer go back to the 1980s when they both began their involvement in American soccer as ODP administrators and Gulati took over for Blazer as the chairman of U.S. Soccer's national teams committee in 2007.)
The backdrop to Friday's election was release of the detailed account of serious financial mismanagement within Concacaf during the reign of Blazer and Warner. David Simmons, a former Barbados judge, presented a detailed report of the case against Warner and Blazer, who he said was "fraudulent in their management."
(Click here for full report from Concacaf's Integrity Committee.)
"I have recounted a sad and sorry tale in the life of Concacaf, a tale of abuse of position and power, by persons who assisted in bringing the organization to profitability but who enriched themselves at the expense of their very own organizations," said Simmons.
The two biggest charges were Warner's legal maneuvering that resulted in him owning $25.9 million Center of Excellence in Trinidad that Concacaf had purchased in part with FIFA money.
According to the report, Blazer received more than $20 million in compensation from Concacaf, including $17 million in commission, despite working without a contract since 1998. Blazer is also accused of misusing funds to buy two apartments on Miami and attempting to buy other properties in the Bahamas using Concacaf funds.
Blatter was in Panama City for the Concacaf Congress and he would have been expected to have supported Gulati, who already serves on several important bodies at FIFA.
Gulati, who was born in India, has been a member of Independent Governance Committee that has worked on developing reform policies in light of the frequent scandals involving FIFA executive committee members in recent years.
He holds the title of "FIFA Ticketing consultant," acting as a board member of FIFA Ticketing AG, arguably FIFA's most important on-going commercial entity, which oversees ticketing for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Gulati will serve a four-year term as one of three Concacaf representatives. Webb, who hails from Cayman Islands, and Honduran Alfredo Hawit were also elected to serve on the 25-person FIFA executive committee.
Gulati gave up his position on the Concacaf executive committee to Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani.
"I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to be one of their representatives on the FIFA Executive Committee. The game is growing tremendously in our region both on and off the field, and I hope to do my part to continue to expand the development of the game for both Concacaf and FIFA."