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FIFA seeks to fix Caribbean woes

The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) May meeting in Trinidad that resulted in strong allegations of bribery will have lasting implications for the region. Some heavy names have fallen. Mohamed bin Hammam who is alleged to have given bribe money to Caribbean soccer officials in return for support against incumbent FIFA President Sepp Blatter in the presidential election, has since been banned for life.

Caribbean soccer czar Jack Warner who has been linked with bin Hammam in the bribery charges, has resigned all football activities. Other Caribbean officials have been suspended for varying periods and levied fines. Just last week, six more drew suspensions as the FIFA investigation into the bribery allegations continued. Four more officials only escaped suspension and fines because they are no longer representatives of the soccer programs in their respective countries.

Now, Blatter wants to bring about peace in the Caribbean. It will be tough because the understanding is that those penalized are seething over their fall from grace and blaming Bahamians Anton Sealey (Bahamas Football Association president) and Fred Lunn (Bahamas Football Association vice president). The pair refused to accept a $40,000 gesture and alerted the CFU secretary general.

The big FIFA investigation then started. The results thus far have been staggering.

The Associated Press reports that, “FIFA has banned 11 Caribbean officials, reprimanded five more and warned six, after allegations they were offered $40,000 cash bribes by the former presidential candidate bin Hammam.”

Warner and the four other Caribbean soccer associates who had their cases closed last week, have been told that if they get back into soccer officially to any degree, the investigations will be re-opened. Soccer has virtually been the biggest part in the lives of Warner and the others who have been penalized and warned of re-opened cases. The climate is a bit sour in Caribbean soccer circles these days.

So, it is indeed a steep climb that faces Blatter and the rest of FIFA (International Federation of Football Associations) in the attempt to mend the fences within Caribbean soccer.

The FIFA chief has called a special meeting for next month at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. He hopes to be the catalyst for the rebuilding of relations in the region. The meeting is scheduled for December 20-21. The timing, so close to Christmas when normally officials are home with their families, is a clear indication of how desperate FIFA is to “sort out the issues” and create an environment of togetherness within the region.

The Bahamas will be there no doubt. The big question is whether countries like Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, and Dominica will participate. Officials from those areas have been hit hard by the FIFA suspensions.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected])

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