Jeffrey Webb was as good as his word. CONCACAF’s annual congress in Nassau heard not even the whisper of an order for a block vote to support Sepp Blatter in his FIFA presidential re-election on May 29.
Frankly, there was no need. Delegate after delegate took to the podium to endorse Blatter’s wonderful work for world football in ever more self-abasing and ingratiating terms. Almost like a competition.
Osiris Guzman, president of the Dominican Republic federation, tumbled over his own sycophancy in comparing the 79-year-old Swiss with Jesus, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther and Nelson Mandela.
A description of Blatter by Raymond Tim Kee, head of the Trinidad and Tobago FA, as the “father of football” would have had C W Alcock, Lord Kinnaird & Co spinning in their graves.
Since the other three candidates for the FIFA presidency were not allowed anywhere near the podium, no wonder Luis Figo fulminated about an absence of democracy.
“When some speak and others are silenced, democracy and football lose. Elections are, per definition, a democratic process. Otherwise they are not elections,” the former World Player of the Year told Reuters.
Welcome to the world of FIFA politics, Senhor Figo. Remember and be prepared if ever someone leans on you to run again.
Apart from a handful of recalcitrants (such as the United States which nominated Prince Ali of Jordan for FIFA’s top job), the vast majority of Jack Warner’s old empire will cast their ballot for Blatter.
“I think CONCACAF membership is sending a clear message that we continue to support president Blatter,” said the understated Webb, who was later re-elected, unopposed, himself.
Blatter had come armed with more specific ammunition than he presented (unsuccessfully) to UEFA and (successfully) to the African confederation.
He reminded delegates that FIFA had spent $330m in the region since 1999 with a further $150-$180m on the way over the next four years. He also threw out a “personal opinion” that CONCACAF was worth an confirmed fourth place (rather than a play-off option) at the World Cup finals.
If that does not transpire then blame the naughty Europeans (and thus further justify suppporting Blatter and not the UEFA-backed trio of Figo, Michael Praag and Prince Ali).
As if this were enough of a triumph for the 79-year-old Swiss, he received an added bonus: this was a promise from Uruguay’s Eugenio Figueredo that all of South America’s 10 votes were also his.
Figueredo is a man on his way out afer being replaced as CONMEBOL president and ousted from the FIFA exco. However, since CONMEBOL is busy cosying up to CONCACAF, he was doubtless perfectly correct.
For Webb, it’s tricky diplomacy.
Many CONCACAF member associations are deeply in need of development support from FIFA of which he is a vice-president. Presumably and sensibly he decided not to run for the top job himself out of an appreciation that Blatter will remain in office, effectively if not literally signing the cheques, for the next four years.
Also Webb, hand-picked by Blatter to head up FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force, has enjoyed firm and vocal support from the FIFA president even if words have sometimes lagged behind action – as with the failure to put trained monitors into the World Cup stadia last summer.
No problem. Webb, at 50, has plenty of time on his side.
Also, he is determined that one of his associations – meaning Mexico or the United States – should host the World Cup in 2026.
** Eduardo Li of Costa Rica has replaced Rafael Salguero of Guatemala as a CONCACAF delegate on the FIFA exefutive committee. Salguero, who had been seeking re-eleftion, withdrew before the vote.
Jamaica’s Horace Burrell was re-elected as a CONCACAF vice-president for the Caribbean Zone with Mexico’s Justino Compean re-elected as vice-president for the North American Zone.
Panama FA president Pedro Chaluja was elected as a CONCACAF exco member (central America) while Sonia Bien-Aime (Turks and Caicos) has become the exco’s first women’s football member.