USA justice unravels FIFA

United States midfielder Carli Lloyd, right, controls the ball against South Korea midfielder Kwon Hahnul during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Saturday, May 30, 2015, in Harrison, N.J.
Associated Press / Julio Cortez

The USA to the rescue — again!

It’s ironic that the USA, with its men’s team still trying to find its footing in the world game and which has little influence in the administration of world soccer, is the country that many believe may have just saved the game. In less than a week after the U.S. Justice Department in New York indicted 14 people — among them seven members of FIFA (world soccer’s governing body), three of whom are high-ranking FIFA executives — on allegations of wire fraud, money laundering and bribery, FIFA President Sepp Blatter resigned on Monday.

Recently-appointed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who led the Justice Department’s investigation, said the indicted FIFA officials “corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves.”

Blatter, who last week Friday was re-elected for a fifth consecutive four-year term, was widely blamed for the corruption, which the U.S. Justice Department said went on for the past 20 years, 17 of those years under Blatter’s reign. His resignation was welcomed by the soccer world as it paves the way for true reform, which most believed could not be achieved with Blatter. A new president will be elected by March 2016.

UEFA (Union of European Football Association) President Michel Platini, a likely candidate for president, said, “It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.” Englishman David Gill, a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee, said that he will consider returning to the post now that Blatter is no longer at FIFA.

Among the allegations were bribes accepted by FIFA officials for awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar, which the Swiss government is investigating. The Qatar situation is a prime example of how these decisions are detrimental to the game: a Qatar World Cup means that the traditional June tournament now must be played in January, the coolest month there, and in the midst of local league schedules throughout the world.

Also, temperature soar to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit by noon in Qatar, presenting dangerous conditions for players; these extremely hot temperatures would facilitate numerous water stoppages and slow the game down considerably, taking away from the free flow and rhythm of play; soccer fans now will have to vacation at an unusual time in January. There are other anomalies that should have disqualified Qatar as a World Cup host; instead, many believed personal greed trumped the well being of players and the game.

The USA got involved first because much of the corruption involved officials in CONCACAF (Confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean) of which the USA is a member. Former CONCACAF presidents Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago and Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands are listed in the indictments and are at the heart of the corruption charges.

CONCACAF headquarters are on USA soil in Miami (FL.) and much of the alleged corrupt activities involved U.S. banks and an American, Chuck Blazer, a former CONCACAF general secretary and Warner ally. Blazer, accused of U.S. tax fraud, had no choice but to aid the American investigation. Hopefully, there’ll be a new ballgame in FIFA.

It wasn’t any of the soccer world powers such as Germany, Brazil or Spain that came to soccer’s rescue; it is the USA that is kicking corruption out of the game.

Caribbean Cup

In the New York Caribbean Cup tournament played last Sunday at Jefferson High School Sports Complex in Flatlands, Brooklyn, Quame Holder scored twice to lead Team Trinidad and Tobago to a 2-1 defeat of Team Dominica, which got its goal from Kerille Bruno. In the feature game, Team Jamaica began its defense of its title by defeating Team St. Kitts and Nevis, 1-0, on a goal by defender Daniel Shaw. In Sunday’s games, Team St. Lucia takes on Team Antigua and Barbuda, Team Guyana meets Team Haiti and Team Jamaica battles Team Trinidad and Tobago.

Women’s World Cup

The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Edmonton, Canada on Saturday, June 6 and plays through Sunday, July 5. All 52 matches in the 24-team tournament will be broadcast live on Fox Sports channels (Fox sports I, Fox Sports II) starting with the opening doubleheader in Edmonton on Saturday between host Canada and China (Fox Sports 1, 6:00 p.m.) and New Zealand versus Holland (Fox Sports 2, 9:00 p.m.).

The USA women, coming off a goalless draw against South Korea last Saturday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison (NJ), will try for their third World Cup title when they contest Group D against Australia (June 8), Sweden (June 12) and Nigeria (June 16). The USA last won the title in 1999.

Group A is Canada, China, New Zealand and Holland; Group B consists of Norway, Thailand, Germany and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast); Group C is defending champion Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador; Group E will see Spain, Brazil, Costa Rica and South Korea battle; and Group F has England, Colombia, Mexico and France.

MLS

The Red Bulls (4-3-5, 17 pts.) got off to a good start in Seattle last Sunday afternoon. They were leading the Sounders (8-3-2, 26 pts.),1-0, at halftime after Lloyd Sam scored in the 35th minute off a rebounded free kick by Bradley Wright-Phillips in CenturyLink Field, but Chad Barrett’s stoppage time goal and Marco Papa’s tying tally in the 69th minute undid the visitors, who have now lost their last three games. New York plays at the Houston Dynamos on Friday night, June 6, at 9:00 p.m. (Univision)….New York City FC tied, 1-1, in a Yankee Stadium game versus Houston on Saturday night. Will Bruin gave Houston the lead from a corner kick in the 16th minute, but David Villa tied the game for the home team from the penalty spot when a hand ball infraction was called against a Dynamo defender.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during a press conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he will resign from his position amid corruption scandal.
Associated Press / Keystone / Ennio Leanza

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