If Marco Polo Del Nero does not attend FIFA’s executive committee meeting in Zurich next week then he should be kicked out and replaced. It is ridiculous that, at this most crucial moment in the world federation’s 111 years, the man who should be representing one of football’s major nations has effectively gone into hiding.
The Brazilian may bear the name of the 13th-century Venetian adventurer but the days when he traversed the world appear at an end. In such circumstances he is betraying his responsibilities to FIFA, to South American football and to the Brazilian game, too.
The 74-year-old, noted in Brazil for keeping the company of pretty girls much less than half his age, was a protege of Ricardo Teixeira during the latter’s command of the Brazilian confederation.
Scandal-scarred Teixeira fled into Florida exile in 2012. Veteran Jose Maria Marin stepped up as CBF president and Del Nero seamlessly slid into Teixeira’s old seat as one of South America’s three delegates to the FIFA exco.
Early last year Marin announced his intention to retire from the CBF presidency after wrapping up the World Cup and Del Nero was confirmed as president-in-waiting. This past April Del Nero formally took over the throne. All the patronage available to a power broker at FIFA and the CBF was within his grasp.
Then, on May 27, Del Nero was awoken early at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich to learn that Marin and six other FIFA-lined grandees had been taken into custody. The dawn raid by the Swiss police, acting on an extradition application from the United States Department of Justice, changed his travel plans.
Later that day, in New York, US Attorney-General Loretta Lynch laid out the scope of the FIFAGate investigation. Del Nero did not listen in. That same evening, without waiting to attend FIFA Congress and cast Brazil’s vote for Sepp Blatter, he and his entourage were scampering for the first flight home.
Brazil has no extradition treaty with the United States. As long as Del Nero remains at home he is safe from the long arm of Loretta Lynch’s law. Within a matter of days of his own Swiss swerve so Teixeira had also flown back to Brazil, leaving his wife to put their Miami Beach home up for sale.
Del Nero did not attend the FIFA exco meeting summoned the day after Blatter’s re-election as president. Nor did he return to Zurich on July 20 for the exco meeting which approved Blatter’s preferred date for the next presidential election and creation of a new reform committee.
Will Del Nero return for the executive committee meeting next Thursday and Friday? Officially, FIFA does not know. It refers the question to the Brazilian confederation . . . and the Brazilian confederation refuses to answer.
Sources close to the CBF say Del Nero will not be attending. If he had harboured any thoughts of daring to return then they would have been dispelled on Monday this week when Lynch, in Zurich, said a new wave of FIFAGate arrests were around the corner.
Del Nero was not named in the original US indictment but he will not wish to risk the chance of new evidence – who knows what bailed Aaron Davidson (Traffic USA) or Jeffrey Webb (CONCACAF) or Alejandro Burzaco (Torneos y Competencias) have told the FBI? – might implicate him in the scandal.
Or, for that matter, what song his old associate Marin will sing to Lynch’s investigators in return for not contesting extradition from Switzerland to the US?
At FIFA Congress the right to vote demands that national teams from a federation must have played in at least two FIFA competitions in the previous four years. No similar stipulation about meetings attended applies in the case of exco members.
FIFA statutes indicate that any exco member who “no longer exercises his official function” shall be immediately replaced by his confederation. But while Del Nero remains firmly esconced at the CBF that option for replacement does not exist.
However, viewing Del Nero’s calculated absenteeism under the Code of Ethics opens another possible option. The regulations offer the ethics committee the right “to judge the conduct of all persons bound by this Code while performing their duties.”
If Del Nero is not attending, and contributing to, exco meetings then obviously he is not performing the duties and responsibilities entrusted to him.
The FIFA administration – meaning secretary-general Jerome Valcke – has a perfect right to submit a complaint to the ethics committee.
Indeed, it might be argued that Valcke – with FIFA’s governance under such scrutiny – should see it as his very specific duty to act against any exco members not pulling their weight. Valcke would be failing in his own duty if he acquiesced in Del Nero’s non-appearances.
A member of Valcke’s staff skipping important meetings would be sacked; a similar expectation should apply in the case of an exco member.
Del Nero, by staying home, is betraying not only the organisations he is supposed to serve . . . but the very honour of bearing the name of that great traveller, Marco Polo.