Clumsy not corrupt

Joao Havelange has resigned as honorary president of FIFA after a long-awaited report into the collapse of the ISL marketing agency ruled the 96-year-old was guilty of ”morally and ethically reproachable conduct.”

FIFA ethics court judge Joachim Eckert said in a ruling that the 96-year-old former president of FIFA resigned on April 18. The resignation had not been made public until now.

Eckert cleared current FIFA President Sepp Blatter of wrongdoing in the case, which involved millions of dollars in bribes from World Cup contracts marketed by the ISL agency which went bankrupt in 2001.

Eckert noted that it was not a crime in Switzerland at the time for Havelange, his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira and then-CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz to accept bribes between 1992 and May 2000.

”However, it is clear that Havelange and Teixeira, as football officials, should not have accepted any bribe money, and should have had to pay it back since the money was in connection with the exploitation of media rights,” the judgment said.

Blatter, who took over from Havelange in 1998 and served as general secretary before that, got off relatively lightly, with the inference that while he might be incompetent he appears not to be corrupt.

“The conduct of President Blatter may have been clumsy because there could be an internal need for clarification, but this does not lead to any criminal or ethical misconduct,” the report said.

For Blatter there was a sense of vindication with the Swiss saying: “I note in particular that, in his conclusions, chairman Eckert states that ‘the ISL case is concluded for the Ethics Committee’ and that ‘no further proceedings related to the ISL matter are warranted against any other football official’.

“I also note with satisfaction that this report confirms that ‘President Blatter’s conduct could not be classified in any way as misconduct with regard to any ethics rules’.

“I have no doubt that FIFA, thanks to the governance reform process that I proposed, now has the mechanisms and means to ensure that such an issue – which has caused untold damage to the reputation of our institution – does not happen again.”

A couple of questions remain, though: namely how did this happen on Blatter’s watch and, given his failure to spot the corruption taking place under his nose, how can this man be trusted to lead FIFA’s into an age of transparency?

Coming out

John Amaechi, the former basketball player and confidante of Jason Collins, the NBA veteran who on Monday revealed he was gay, says he has spoken to several gay footballers players he knows in the English Premier League, all of whom are fearful of their sexuality being revealed.

”The NBA is light years ahead of football,” Amaechi to The Associated Press. ”There is no doubt about that.”

Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player in 2007, three years after retiring. In the weeks before his public coming out, Collins spoke to him about his decision.

”I told him there isn’t anything negative about it,” Amaechi said. ”Being out is better than being in – unreservedly.”

However, Amaechi admitted that in football – particularly in England, attitudes to homosexuality remain relatively archaic.

”If it wanted to be a better, more progressive organization that supported diversity, not because it looks pretty when you put it on the back of your annual report … it could be,” Amaechi said. ”It has the resources. It doesn’t want to get rid of the dinosaur, so the dinosaurs continue to roar through the hallways of football, making sure that everyone knows how you have to behave.

”Let’s face it. You are better off being the kind of football player who bites like a 5-year-old than a gay player in football. One would get you less ridicule from the powers that be. It’s shocking to me.”

Amaechi, who grew up in Stockport, is the figurehead many gay players in England are turning to for advice.

Asked if any privately gay players had contacted him like Collins, Amaechi replied: ”Yes, a few.”

”There are plenty of them who are already out, who have come out to some of their teammates,” he added. ”But they just don’t want (to in public). They don’t have any faith in football to do its job, to do its duty.”

”In Britain is the idea that real men – straight men – don’t read books, must whistle at women and objectify them and all kinds of crazy stuff that is not particularly helpful,” he said.

”With football, they’ve got so far to go. That’s almost a bridge too far.”

Money no object

Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan is expected to be named next month as the winner of the race to secure the licence for a newly-formed MLS franchise in New York City.

Sheikh Mansour is understood to be one of several bidders for the franchise, which will be called New York City FC.

With a stadium yet to be built for the new team, which would join the MLS in 2016, the £64.55m cost of securing the licence could result in an overall investment of £322.7m due to costs associated with constructing a stadium.

A site in Queens has been identified as the proposed home for New York City FC following discussions with the owners of the New York Mets baseball team for the redevelopment of the parking lot at the club’s Citi Field Stadium.

An MLS spokesman told Manchester Evening News that they were in advanced talks about a New York expansion but added that nothing had been agreed.

He said: “While we are making progress on the New York expansion team, we have not finalised the ownership agreement.

“Our discussions with potential ownership groups remain private.” A report in the New York Times claimed that the only stumbling block to the move was opposition from local residents.

But they added that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is keen to push the project through before he leaves office at the end of the year.

There could be trouble ahead…

The caxirola, Brazil’s replacement for the vuvuzela, is already giving World Cup organisers a headache.

The instrument made its official debut on Sunday, but hundreds of the small green-and-yellow plastic objects were thrown onto the field by fans upset with their team’s performance, forcing a brief stoppage.

Several thousand caxirolas were distributed to the nearly 30,000 people who attended the match between Bahia and Vitoria at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.

The caxirolas were thrown by Bahia fans near one of the touchlines after Vitoria scored their second goal in a 2-1 victory.

Created by Brazilian artist Carlinhos Brown, the caxirola was presented earlier this month and recognised as the official fan instrument of the World Cup. It creates a continuous rattling sound that’s softer than the endless racket produced by the vuvuzelas in South Africa.

Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said it was “not good news” to see the instruments thrown by fans but hopes it is an isolated incident.

“It doesn’t mean that something like this will happen if Brazil is losing a match during the World Cup,” Rebelo said.

That’s very true…the kitchen sink will be hurled onto the pitch if Brazil lose.

Goal of the day

Blooming’s Hugo Bargas scored with a wonderful overhead kick against fellow Santa Cruz team Oriente Petrolero.

Quote of the day

“Football works in generations. Over recent years Spain has had a great team and has produced some fantastic players, but every cycle comes to an end, much like what happened with Italy or Brazil.

Former German international Bernd Schuster who played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, anticipates a change in European football’s balance of power.

Nothing to see here

Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the man at the heart of the Operation Puerto cycling doping probe, has been given a one-year prison sentence for crimes against public health.

Fuentes was also barred from practicing sports medicine for four years and received a fine.

Traditionally, in Spain, individuals without a prior conviction who are sent to prison for less than two years, receive a suspended sentence.

Sentence aside, the significance for the football world comes with the decision by judge Julia Santamaria that evidence from the case, including blood samples, would not be released to national and international anti-doping authorities for probes into cases outside cycling.

Fuentes, who denied doping, said in his opening testimony he also had clients in sports including football, tennis, athletics and boxing.

The decision not to release the evidence, and for it to be destroyed when the case is closed after any potential appeals, was a blow to other bodies represented during the trial.

But the decision will be welcomed in Spain, where questions over the methods used to achieve amazing success enjoyed by the Spanish national team in recent years, wilL now never be answered.

Good day to bury bad news

FIFA executive committee member Vernon Manilal Fernando of Sri Lanka has been banned for eight years for unethical behaviour.

Fernando was suspended following a two-day hearing of the FIFA ethics committee adjudicatory chamber, chaired by the aforementioned Hans-Joachim Eckert.

“He was found guilty of several breaches of the FIFA code of ethics,” FIFA said in a statement.

Fernando joined the executive committee in 2011, but he was provisionally banned in March while Michael Garcia, head of the ethics committee’s investigative chamber, examined an alleged misuse of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) funds.

Fernando was a close ally of former FIFA executive committee member and AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam, which in the eyes of the organisation’s president, Sepp Blatter, makes him persona non grata.

Bin Hammam was banned from football for life by FIFA following his involvement in the 2011 bribery scandal when he was standing against Blatter for president. Fernando accompanied Bin Hammam on his the so-called ‘cash for votes’ trip to Trinidad which precipitated the Qatari’s downfall.