KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
— For many years the family tree of international sport was controlled by a Latin axis of Brazilian Joao Havelange (FIFA, football), Spaniard Juan Samaranch (the International Olympic Committee) and Italian Primo Nebiolo (athletics).
One step down on the football side of the family, a similar group of monoliths commanded the money and the votes which added up to The Absolute Power of Patronage.
Making up this group were executive committee heavyweights such as Argentina’s long-serving Julio Grondona, South American confederation boss Nicolas Leoz, Brazilian supremo Ricardo Teixeira, CONCACAF leader Jack Warner; and Africa’s Issa Hayatou.
Around them was Sepp Blatter, who controlled the levers of power in his long-running role as FIFA general secretary and chief executive before his elevation to the presidency in 1998. By that stage Blatter found his powers limited, hence his acquiesence to the outrages committed by the men who held the power of voting blocks and, hence, his re-elections.
To say Blatter has been a prisoner of Teixeira and Co might be an extreme but it possesses more than an element of truth.
The power of patronage and commercial ‘popularity’ which FIFA status carried enabled Teixeira, for example, to wield immense power back in Brazil. Not to mention the fact that his rise to domestic power was assisted by his marriage to the daughter of Joao Havelange.
And Havelange, 24 years president of FIFA and the man whose reign saw football explode to its financial dominance of world sport, had the ear of successive Presidents.
For years, everything went well for Teixeira. Born on June 20, 1947, this banker’s son from Carlos Chagasm studied law in Rio where he happened to meet Lucia Havelange, only daughter of the all-powerful then-president of FIFA, during Carnival.
In 1989 Teixeira became president of the Brazilian football confederation despite constant sniping about nepotism from opponents and critics. A number of minor scandals erupted about how Teixeira handled various sportswear contracts and his use of CBF funds to support election campaigns of various political allies.
The value of his power and connection was demonstrated on the international stage at the draw, in Las Vegas, for the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States. Teixeira had become embroiled in a row with Pele over domestic TV rights. Hence Havelange refused to involve Pele in the draw ceremony – even though Pele had enormous PR value for FIFA as just about the only footballer the wider American public had ever heard of.
That same year, 1994, Teixeira was voted on to the FIFA executive committee. Many people in Brazil have always considered him a likely successor to Blatter as president though this has always seemed highly unlikely to observers beyond South America.
Teixeira’s connections proved of use again when a parliamentary inquiry into his leadership of the CBF was effectively shelved in 1998. This just cemented his grip on power which was further tightened after he negotiated with Nike a $160m sponsorship of the national team who went on to win the World Cup in 2002.
That same year Teixeira went to court to ban publication of a book entitled CBF-Nike which examined the sponsorship deal. Ironically one of the authors of that book, then an opponent and later a friendly, is the current Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo.
Teixeira was close to former President Lula. The CBF and/or Havelange supported a number of Lula’s political allies and more putative inquiries into his business fairs were stifled or still-born.
When Brazil was awarded host rights to the 2014 World Cup Teixeira, it seemed, was impregnable. He had himself appointed as president of the Local Organising Committee and controller of a majority share-holding.
Teixeira’s arrogance in power was underlined in an interview with Brazilian magazine Piaui last July in which he called the British “a bunch of pirates,” and boasted that he could “get away with anything” at the 2014 World Cup to shut out his enemies in the media.
But . . . then Lula was succeeded last January by Dilma Rousseff who quickly distanced the President’s office from Teixeira; simultaneously FIFA ceded to international media pressure to clean up the perception of high-level corruption.
That led, inevitably, to pressure for the reopening of the ISL court file in which, it has been widely reported, Teixeira, Havelange, Hayatou and Leoz are all named as recipients of illicit payments from the long-bankrupt former marketing partner of the world federation.
The house of cards had started falling.
The Rio public prosecutor instructed the fraud squad to investigate Teixeira over allegations of money-laundering concerning ISL cash; a powerful fans’ protest movement erupted, demanding his resignation; FIFA asked Rousseff to get Teixeira out (a step too far, even for Rousseff); and now more questions are piling up over Teixeira’s financial involvement in a friendly match between Brazil and Portugal in Brasilia in 2008.
In mid-December Teixeira announced that he was taking a 40-day break from his football duties while he went abroad ‘on health grounds.’
Many observers were surprised he even bothered to come back . . .
Also at www.Goal.com
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