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Opinions of Monday, 1 January 2018

Columnist: Arthur K

How America is saving soccer

Soccer is the World most popular sport, by a wide margin. But it was becoming a haven for corruption till the Americans stepped in with an assist from the Swiss.

For decades Havelange, Blatter, Hayatou and others ran FIFA like a personal piggy bank, living in opulence and jetting around the world like royalty. Soccer, particularly, the world cup is big business. In 2014, staging the cup vost Brazil 4 billion USD and FIFA made 2 billion USD.

The beginning of the end came when the 2022 World cup was awarded to Qatar, who beat the Americans to win it. It is said that great acts often have selfish motives.

Mind you, this was not the first time corruption had appeared in FIFA. Media reports have established that the 2010 tournament was secured for South Africa with a 10 million USD bribe arranged between President Mbeki and FIFA President Blatter.

Indeed, a similar tale has emerged regarding how Brazil secured the 2014 tournament.

After losing to Qatar, the US protested. To quiet things down, FIFA set up an investigation into corruption. However, when the report was done, FIFA decided not publish its own report. The report's author, American lawyer Michael Garcia resigned in protest and damned the summary of his report put out by FIFA.

The next year, the Swiss authorities invaded FIFA's office, seized documents and arrested some FIFA officials. Later that year , US authorities indicted 42 officials. With 24 guilty pleas, and some cooperative witnesses, 3 FIFA heavyweights went on trial before judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn Federal court.

This week, convictions were returned for Jose Maria Marin, Juan Angel Napont and Manuel Burga. The key witness was former Argentina soccer boss Julio Grondona. The case centered on bribes estimated to be between 150 and 200 million USD.

Extraditions are being sought for officials and former officials from Brazil, Argentina and Trinidad and Tobago. The stories were graphic. The scandals have ended the careers of Blatter, Platinni, Hayatou and others. The Swiss investigations are on-going.

Whatever one thinks of America, they may have saved soccer. Next time you see the beautiful game, say a prayer for those Americans and the Swiss and pray that they can, with apologies to Trump, make soccer clean again!

Soccer at its best, as played at the World cup must be preserved.