BUENOS AIRES: One-time FIFA powerbroker Julio Grondona offered to back England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup if the government would agree to talks with Argentina over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Grondona died in July 2014 at 82 while still in office as senior vice-president and finance committee head of world federation FIFA and long-serving supremo of the Argentinian football federation (AFA).
As such he had been a member of the FIFA executive committee which voted, in December 2010, to award the 2018 World Cup finals to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.
Grondona’s political, cultural and linguistic sympathies were all with the Spain/Portugal bid for 2018 but his son has revealed that Grondona had considered abandoning his long-time antagonism towards England if it could have made a difference over the Falklands.
Julio Humberto Grondona, a son and currently coach of the Argentinian club Arsenal Sarandi, recalled events in 2010 in an interview with sports magazine Enganche.
He said: “He was an outstanding politician and negotiator, there’s no question about that. Dad voted for the 2018 World Cup to go to Spain and the 2022 World Cup to the United States.
“The language meant it would have been much easier for Argentinians wishing to support their national team. But then England popped up asking for Argentina’s vote to organise the 2018 Cup.
“He would have never normally have voted for the English but he was an intelligent and political man.
“So, in one of those magic moments which surprised everybody, he told the English: ‘OK you can have my vote for the 2018 Cup, but you must make sure the British government will sit and negotiate with Argentina over Las Malvinas.”
Father Julio’s political senses would also have told him that the England bid team would reject the idea out of hand.
Grondona’s death, shortly after seeing Argentina beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final, meant that he escaped pursuit by the United States Justice Department for the manner in which he benefited over the years from bribes and kickbacks uncovered by the FIFAGate corruption investigation.
Mourners at his funeral were led by Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri and the then FIFA leader Sepp Blatter as well as some of the biggest names in national and South American football.