—– ZURICH: In May 2011 five current and/or future members of the executive committee of world football federation FIFA turned up in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. Only two are now currently active in football.

The five were (in alphabetical order): Hany Abo Rida (FIFA and CAF exco member from Egypt); Mohamed Bin Hamman (then FIFA exco member and Asian confederation president from Qatar); Vernon Manilal Fernando (Sri Lanka, then about to join the FIFA exco as an AFC delegate); Worawi Makudi (FIFA exco member from Thailand); and Jack Warner (then FIFA vice-president, CONCACAF president and consultant to the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation).

Bin Hammam: Flight of Caribbean fancy

This conference had been created by Warner so that Bin Hammam could address delegates from the 34 member associations of the Caribbean Football Union on his challenge to incumbent Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency.

Bin Hammam and Warner had supported Blatter loyally in previous elections. The Qatari had put his personal jet at Blatter’s service when FIFA’s former ceo campaigned initially to win the FIFA presidency in 1998.

In 2002 – despite ferocious European opposition – and 2007, Bin Hammam and Warner responded to unfettered freedom within their own regions by swinging their confederations’ votes decisively behind Blatter for a second, then a third time.

Lost patience

But when Blatter decided to run for a fourth term Bin Hammam lost patience at being denied the clear run he believed he had been earned and went on the attack.

Warner had been Blatter-friendly when the president attended the formal CONCACAF Congress in Miami early in May and sprang a happily-timed promise  of more FIFA development cash on its way.

Bin Hammam was not present to hear that. He had been denied a visa to enter the US, for reasons which remain unexplained. Thus Warner, in the interests – as he put it – of fair play, arranged a CFU conference in Port of Spain so the presidents and general secretaries of the Caribbean FAs could hear from Bin Hammam at first hand.

They received more than they had bargained for.

Next day each delegation was offered, one by one, an envelope containing $40,000 in cash for expenses. The sequel (Chuck Blazer, whisteblowing, allegations, suspensions etc) needs no repeating.

Bin Hammam had not travelled alone to Port of Spain to accept the hospitality of his new ally Warner: with him on the plane were Abo Rida, Fernando and Makudi.

Now, less than two years later and heading for another FIFA Congress, here is the current state of play of the Infamous Five:

Out of the game: 

Bin Hammam: banned for life last December at second attempt  (though his influence may linger);

Fernando: under a 90-day suspension imposed this week for by FIFA; and

Warner: self-exiled from the game for life.

Still in good standing:

Abo Rida: active as both a FIFA and a CAF exco member;

Makudi: both a FIFA and a CAF exco member and nominated for AFC president, having survived a string of controversies.

As a footnote, the fate should be noted of China’s Zhang Jilong, acting president of the AFC for the past two years since Bin Hammam’s denestration.

Zhang had been expected to stand for the presidency. Powerful Japan was happy to support him. Then, suddenly, Zhang quit the race far too late for anyone else from his region to launch a hasty campaign of their own.

No-one in East Asia will say so but he betrayed them; most of all Japan, by far the best-organised and most financially and commercially significant of all the AFC federations.

Finance chairman

Zhang was finance chairman of the AFC throughout the reign of Bin Hammam. Thus he was senior steward of the AFC funds which Bin Hammam was accused, fatally and finally, of misuing (allegations he denied).

On Monday this week, less than two weeks after Zhang officially quit the AFC presidential race,  Sri Lankan cement company chairman Fernando was suspended by FIFA ethics duo Michael Garcia and Hans-Joachim Eckert: an intriguing gesture of unanimity on behalf of both prosecutor and judge.

FIFA said the decision had been taken “to prevent interference with the establishment of the truth with respect to proceedings now in the adjudicatory chamber.” Swiss sources suggest this concerns allegations over FIFA development cash, a similar issue to the one over which Makudi, in Thailand, was cleared last year.

Garcia and Eckert appear involved in a race against time to tie up an awful lot of loose ends (including the ISL report analysis) before an FIFA exco meeting later this month, the AFC election congress on May 2 and FIFA Congress is on May 30 and 31.

Sleepless nights, anyone?

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