From Abidjan to Zagreb this week, after the last of the FIFA World Cup group-stage qualifiers, football fans will have a pretty good idea about their nations’ chances of playing at the finals tournament in Brazil next year.
What awaits those who travel to Brazil might not be the samba and carnival that has been promised by organisers but instead a protest against the corruption and cynicism that a maturing nation’s growing middle class angrily rejects.
Even as Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup in June, protestors and police exchanged Molotov cocktails and tear gas as Brazilians showed they can rise up ‘All In One Rhythm’ against corruption, using a World Cup that has cost BRL30bn ($13bn, £8.3bn, €9.9bn) as the catalyst. Since then the headlines exposing alleged fraud at the heart of the Brazilian football establishment have continued to flow.
Last month the former Brazil international Romario, now a deputy in Brazil’s Congress, attacked the national football association, the CBF, as “one of the most corrupt institutions on the planet”.
He added: “If I were given the power, I would fire all directors and members of the CBF. I would also hire a company to do an audit. I would spare no one.”
One of those who has already been in Romario’s targets is the former chairman of the 2014 World Cup organising committee, Ricardo Teixeira, who resigned as president of the CBF in March and whose every move is followed by the Brazilian press. Having decamped to a Miami condo that previously belonged to Anna Kournikova, he has now also negotiated a residency deal to live in Andorra [http://www.insideworldfootball.com/world-football/42-news/13181-teixeira-heads-for-safe-haven-of-andorra-and-out-of-brazilian-reach].
When Teixeira made a flying visit to his homeland three weeks ago, the Brazilian press reported it was to recover some $30 million of CBF funds held at the Rural Bank. That was a week after Brazil’s central bank had ordered the liquidation of Rural Bank, whose three most senior executives last year received lengthy jail sentences for money laundering and other financial crimes.
Whether Rural Bank was the repository for the £13.5 million in ‘commissions’ received by Teixeira and Havelange from FIFA’s collapsed former rights partner, ISL, is unknown. Even so, it is clear the Brazilian people consider the game they love so much to be emblematic of the venality that has characterised their country’s ruling classes.
As preparations for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup advance into their final stages, this presents a potential problem for FIFA itself. It has made faltering progress in implementing the recommendations of Mark Pieth’s report on transparency and governance. The report into the ISL case by the ethics committee’s adjudicatory chamber under Hans-Joachim Eckhert was considered by many commentators to be unsatisfactory.
Still, one of the consequences of the ISL report was for Nicolas Léoz to resign from all FIFA positions and his presidency of the CONMEBOL confederation for having been another to receive millions in bribes. Romario has now formed an unlikely alliance with the Argentinian Diego Maradona to allege routine corruption at the heart of the South American confederation.
With all these undercurrents crackling, there is a strong risk that the future focus on corruption at the World Cup will draw renewed attention to matters at FIFA House and the personalities that run world football.
And as FIFA invites the world to its football carnival in Brazil, where several hospitality packages in excess of $25,000 remain unsold, repeats of the riots seen at the Confederations Cup could lead to a raft of uncomfortable questions.
Does Ozil mark a new financial era at Arsenal?
Last month Money Talk speculated as to the cause for Arsenal’s rapid deleveraging since the club’s majority owner, Stan Kroenke, joined the board in 2008 (http://www.insideworldfootball.com/matt-scott/13109-matt-scott-why-arsenal-s-cash-mountain-may-remain-just-that]. Since then the Gunners exploded their transfer record with the £42.4m purchase of Mesut Özil from Real Madrid.
The German international surely does represent the “super quality” Arsène Wenger demanded from his team’s summer transfer dealings. But the blackening of the club’s balance sheet continues unabated.
The departures of Marouane Chamakh, Andrei Arshavin, Denilson, Gervinho, Sebastien Squillaci and a number of squad players raised an eight-figure sum in transfer fees and saved tens of millions in wages that the arrivals of Özil, Mathieu Flamini and Yaya Sanogo could not consume.
Throw in the tens of millions raised from Arsenal’s new-property sales, the Premier League’s ever-growing broadcast deals and the club’s guaranteed new income from commercial schemes and the £42.4 million player investment has done nothing to undermine the club’s solvency.
Özil brought a new complexion to the club’s player trading and celebration to the Emirates on transfer-deadline day. But fans who had demanded the club deploy its available resources to maximise the chances of success on the pitch might be wise to recognise the focus on frugality endures.