KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: The watch given to 65 leading football federation officials at the World Cup has been described by one of them as “the most poisonous present I ever received.”
At the start of the World Cup finals in Brazil in June the 27 members of the FIFA executive committee and presidents of all the competing nations were given £16,000 luxury watches as a welcoming gift by the centenary-celebrating Brazilian confederation.
Later Michael Garcia, head of the world federation’s ethics committee, ordered that the watches be handed back since they exceeded the norms of ‘symbolic’ value.
Michel D’Hooghe, Belgian chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, expressed his anger at the gift and the ensuing storm.
D’Hooghe, describing the gift as “poisonous,” said he had not realised the value of the gift since a watch is a standard present at such events.
He said: “We are absolutely angry on that situation. All my colleagues on the executive committee, not one of them needs that watch. I have been in football 42 years and received many watches in my career. It is a classical present in football, so I did not need that watch.
“To say I received that watch is not true. I found that watch in a bag that was placed in our room. I thought it was only promotional material about Brazil. It was only one week later that I opened it and saw there was a watch with plastic bracelet and the mark Parmigiani.
“I had never heard of it. For me Parmigiani is a cheese that you put on spaghetti.
“I thought it was a kind of Swatch. The Brazilians gave us all a present for their centenary. There was nothing asked in return. It was not a matter of corruption. It was a pure present. What I did not like is that they gave a present of such value.
“Please never give me such presents again.”
D’Hooghe gave his watch to a friend attending the World Cup and had now had the “humiliation” of having to ask for its return. Michel Platini, president of European federation UEFA, said initially that it would be “rude” to return a gift but then, apparently, did so.
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