KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Jack Warner has hit back at accusations of fraudulent dealings during his two high-profile decades in world football.
In doing so he wove FIFA president Sepp Blatter and predecessor Joao Havelange into the accusatory narrative and also played the ‘race card’ in rhetorical demands about why he had been victimised.
Warner, who quit his high-powered roles in world and regional football in 2011 to avoid answering FIFA bribery allegations, was addressing constituents about his resignation as National Security Minister and chairman of the United National Congress.
A report last week from regional football confederation CONCACAF had damned Warner along with its former general secretary Chuck Blazer. Both have denied all wrongdoing.
Warner started by denying that he intended quitting all politics. He did intend to resign immediately as Chaguanas West MP and would then contest the subsequent by-election as a UNC candidate.
Presenting himself as a victim, Warner said: “For the past two decades, I have been the target of various kinds of attacks. I have been targeted. My family has been targeted. My friends have been targeted. My detractors have said every dirty thing under the sun about Jack Warner.
“The Holy Bible says there is a time for everything under the sun; a time to sow and a time to reap; a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
This, after so many threats by Warner over the past two years, was the time for him to speak about the controversies swirling around his football activities.
He said: “The world of international sports politics is not a simple one. It is an arena of extremely high stakes. The remuneration packages and the perks of those jobs can be very attractive. And therefore at times the rivalry can become very intense among those lured by the trappings of office and the craving for power.
“It is against this background that I have found myself a keenly pursued target. And just as in any all-fours game, how smartly you play the few pieces of trump in your hand can determine whether you win or lose.”
Now he was playing his ‘trump cards,’ the long-promised ‘football tsunami.’
** Official response: FIFA will continue to maintain its principle not to comment on any allegations made by Jack Warner. In general, anyone who has any substantiated allegations to make is welcome to address such allegations to the relevant bodies at FIFA, including the independent Ethics Committee **
Warner went back to his original election in 1990 as president of CONCACAF when “I was given a table, two chairs and $40,000 to work with from the old administration.” However when he resigned, 21 years later, “there was $37m in the bank, three offices, and unmeasured goodwill.”
He had used his growing influence to create the controversial Havelange Centre of Excellence and increased the CONCACAF allocation of slots at the World Cup.
The effective gift of the Havelange Centre funding from Havelange, who retired as FIFA president in 1998, led Warner to swing CONCACAF’s decisive election votes behind Sepp Blatter who “had been at this time the most hated FIFA official.”
He added: “Without my CONCACAF support at the FIFA elections, Blatter would never have seen the light of day as president of FIFA.”
In those elections, Warner admitted for the first time, “that Haiti was absent and, with Blatter’s permission, I got Captain Horace Burrell’s [of Jamaica] girlfriend to vote as the Haitian delegate by saying: ‘Oui!’ when Haiti’s name was called.”
Warner added: “I was Blatter’s idol then and he was mine . . . because of Blatter’s assistance to the Caribbean Diaspora, for two consecutive years the CFU was able to host in Trinidad and Tobago age group competitions in July and August for the entire Caribbean where we paid for all the countries football youth teams in the Caribbean.”
Warner went in to a long and detailed review of the complexities of the ownership of the Havelange Centre, took a hefty swipe at the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings but insisted: “My stewardship within the FIFA, CONCACAF and CFU is beyond repute.
“Every vicious allegation levelled against me is without basis. Not because I choose to remain quiet means I have no defence. But truth, when crushed to the ground will always rise.
“It is still a mystery to me to fathom how a little country boy from Todd’s Road, Longdenville and Chaguanas could deceive for so long the mighty FIFA with more than 200 lawyers and an annual budget of $2bn for so long.
“One must ask the question how did little Jack Warner manage to stay in his corner under the radar and enjoyed so much success for so long?
“Or is it just that what we are seeing today is the vindictiveness of an oligarchy against one who attempted to challenge the power of a Eurocentric and white regime and thus balance the playing field so that leaders of every colour, race and ethnicity could have a fair chance to become a president of FIFA?”
He then returned to the theme of his determination to rebuild his domestic power base, rounded on his domestic critics and insisted that this was “the matter that I really want to talk to you about.”
Warner’s comments raised the question- which should go the FIFA ethics committee – of whether the money gifted to him by Havelange was money from the Brazilian’s own bank account of from that of FIFA – and, if it was FIFA’s money, did FIFA really know?
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