What’s more exciting: the fact that there’s not one but two World Cups going on concurrently, or the fact that the FIFA scandal continues to widen with what seems like a stream of new revelations almost by the hour?
As much as Off The Post loves international soccer, he’ll have to side with the FIFA scandal, because the prospect of President Sepp Blatter eventually being led away to jail is the kind of globally significant, once-in-a-lifetime event to rival the sagas of OJ Simpson, Oscar Pistorious or, indeed, Caitlyn Jenner.
Where were you when they finally got Blatter?
Of course, OTP is getting a little ahead of himself here. As of Monday afternoon, the resigning FIFA president still has not been charged with anything— but that could all change, soon.
Many of the scandal’s biggest revelations over the past couple days have come from South Africa’s Sunday Times. According to an AP report, The Times (which is under a pay-wall so we use other sources) is in possession of a 2007 email from FIFA secretary Jerome Valcke that says that both Blatter and former South African President Thabo Mbeki had held “discussions” over the $10 million that ultimately went from South African taxpayers to a fund controlled by disgraced former Concacaf president Jack Warner. The Department of Justice is alleging that this money was payoff in exchange for Warner, former FIFA executive committee (exco) member Chuck Blazer and one other unnamed Concacaf exco member voting for South Africa in the campaign to host the 2010 World Cup, which was held in 2004.
Of course, FIFA, the South African government and the South African soccer federation (SAFA) all strenuously deny that the transfer of that money --earmarked for something nebulously called the Diaspora Legacy Fund -- was payment for a bribe.
FIFA previously said that neither Valcke nor any other high-ranking officials knew what the transfer was about, but that would be a total lie in light of these new allegations -- although it should be noted that The Times did not publish the email in question.
In response to the controversy, SAFA issued the following statement: “It is a shame that this noble effort to support football development has now been turned on its head and camouflaged as a bribe rather than recognising the good that it was intended to deliver to the football programmes of CONCACAF.”
OTP doesn’t need to tell you that that is an outrageously ballsy statement to make if indeed SAFA is one day found guilty of colluding with CONCACAF and/or FIFA. As they say, the cover-up is worse than the lie.
Meanwhile, new evidence is coming in all the time that makes the 2010 vote look like a huge conspiracy to commit fraud. For example: the BBC says it has seen account statements showing that somehow, $4.8 million landed in the account of Trinidadian supermarket chain JTA Supermarkets -- which is funny, because in its indictment of the FIFA 14, the DOJ alleged that Warner “laundered the funds through accounts held in the name of a large supermarket chain.” Additionally, the BBC says that $1.6 million was used to pay Warner’s credit cards and personal loans, the largest of which was $410K.
But that’s not all: The Sunday Times (via Deadspin), also published excerpts of a recording from former exco member Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana who said, during an interview in which Times reporters posed as lobbyists, that ahead of the vote he was certain the 2010 World Cup vote was going to go 13-11 in favor of Morocco, but it actually went 14-10 in favor of South Africa. While Bhamjee admits that some of the members could indeed have lied to him, he went on to list those that said they would vote for the North African country, before claiming that he thinks FIFA doctored the results.
So, the plot thickens, and the evidence mounts. It looks like, as the DOJ alleged, the 2010 vote was totally corrupt, but what about 2018 and 2022? Well, according to Domenico Scala, FIFA’s chairman of the audit and compliance committee, if Russia and Qatar are found to have bought votes, “then the awards could be invalidated.” This is the first time a FIFA official has said that those World Cups, which were voted on in 2010, could be moved.
But, as Scala is quick to point out: “This evidence has not yet been brought forth.”
As Guido Tognoni, the former special advisor to Blatter during his second term, says, it’s likely that these votes and just about every vote that has ever happened during Blatter’s reign has been tainted in some way. "In FIFA, for many years, you could only reach your goal by taking dollars in your hands," he told the BBC.
Let’s just hope the scandal doesn’t extend to match-fixing.