ASUNCION: Uncertainty hangs over next year’s staging of the Copa America centenary tournament in the United States in the wake of the FIFAgate scandal writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Juan Angel Napout, president of South American confederation CONMEBOL, conceded after an executive committee meeting that events of the last three months have thrown the event into question.
The centenary event has been scheduled for the US from June 3-26 next year within a strategy of closer relations between both CONMEBOL and the central and north American association CONCACAF.
But that was before events in May when the US Department of Justice issued indictments against 14 senior football officials from the Americas. The core charges focused on alleged fraud concerning commercial and broadcasting contracts for major tournaments in the region.
The investigation prompted Swiss police, on May 27 in Zurich, to arrest and detain Jeffrey Webb and Eugenio Figueredo, then the presidents of CONCACAF and CONMEBOL and vice-presidents of world federation FIFA.
Webb accepted extradition to the US where he has pleaded not guilty to all charges while Uruguayan Figueredo is still in detention in Switzerland, contesting the application. Both have been suspended indefinitely from all football activity.
The US DoJ is also seeking the extradition from Paraguay of another former CONMEBOL president in Nicolas Leoz.
Current president Napout said overnight that the centenary of the Copa America would be marked appropriately but that discussions would continue later this week with CONCACAF over whether a US hosting was a practical proposition.
Many South American officials would be nervous of travelling to the US while the football corruption inquiry continues.
Napout said: “The centenary of the Copa America and CONMEBOL will be celebrated on the pitch. We still want to go ahead with the Centennial Cup; it is already fixed in FIFA’s international calendar.
“However, we understand this is a delicate time for CONCACAF and we respect that.”