Monday, June 20, 2011

The Mess You Made

A 2-0 win over an impressive Jamaican side is reason enough to be happy with today's result, but the victory is all the sweeter because of the context in which the game was played.

Proving once again that the T&T/Jamaica/Barbados triumvirate that runs the Caribbean Football Union is without shame, a letter from the Jamaican Football Federation to FIFA was released to the press earlier this week. The letter, submitted by members of the CFU, represents a formal ethics complaint lodged against Chuck Blazer.

On its own, this does not rise to a level of national enmity, as there are few Americans with nice things to say about Blazer and even fewer rushing to his defense, but the substance of the attack should greatly offend American sensibilities. According to published reports, the JFF's letter alleges that Mr. Blazer:

"discriminated against Capt Burrell and certain members of the Concacaf through his contemptuous and denigratory words since all the persons who were singled out were of a specific race".
This is almost too stupid for words. But it is also a clear signal that the defense of the CFU and its current standard operating procedures will be made on delusional, divisive grounds.

The standard appeal of the "smallness" of the Caribbean members versus those of their North American and Central American peers has already been made. The myth of minnows overachieving under the charitable hand of Jack Warner has been repeated ad nauseum; this despite the fact that the total population of the Caribbean members exceeds those of the Central American members; that the achievements of CFU members in world football have been modest, at best; and that in the four largest members of the Union, the game has developed in no appreciable manner.

Now, add to that the specter of racism and rather than have a discussion about the merits of given positions, those supporting the existing regime can whisper about conspiracies and insidious machinations.

Spin this however you want, but $40,000 in $100 bills ain't going to change. Jack Warner's checkered history is not going to change.

What will change is the tolerance of other CONCACAF nations for chicanery within the CFU. Operating under a belief that folks in North and Central America are out to get Mr. Warner, Mr. Austin, or Capt. Burrell out of fear for the CFU's carefully amassed power fails to recognize the obvious: the rise of Jack Warner within FIFA occurred not in the face of opposition from other CONCACAF members but in the wake of their apathy to the prospect.

The self-immolating response of CFU's leadership threatens to stoke ambitions, particularly in Mexico, for greater prominence in world football affairs. I would imagine that the more buffoonish the CFU becomes the more appetites are whet for a fundamental power shift in CONCACAF's affairs.

Mr. Austin's lawsuit and Capt. Burrell's charges no longer appear to reflect a cadre of folks who believe that they are bullet-proof. There is no tactical intelligence in these strategies; they convince few of the justness of the position taken while further solidfying opposition. Instead, these gambits appear to be desperate actions signaling the ferocity by which acquired privilege will be defended.

If this is the case, there will be collateral damage and that can have severe repercussions, as evidenced in another CONCACAF-related story making the rounds.

Outside of the CFU, CONCACAF and FIFA are dealing with the bad publicity attendant to the suspension of Belize from the organization. Most reports are content to note that FIFA has faulted the Belizean government for interfering in the FA's affairs. This is too bad, because the background is remarkable and illustrates the ridiculous lack of accountability within FIFA.

Earlier this month, Belize's Ministry of Sport informed FIFA, CONCACAF, and the Football Federation of Belize that the FFB was not authorized to represent the country. The move followed the exodus of both semi-pro leagues (the Belize Premier Football League and the Super League of Belize) from the FFB.

Now, FIFA's story spotlighting the kick-off of the road to Brazil 2014 (begun with a 5-2 first leg victory for Belize over Montserrat) has been hijacked by Belize's suspension from the organization following the government's refusal to provide services for the return leg in Belize originally scheduled for Sunday. And there is little hope for a quick resolution that would allow for that match to be played.

On one side is the FFB, led by Dr. Bertie Chimilio, who -- like many others within FIFA's walls -- sounds his arguments in terms of conspiracies designed to get him as a person rather than the institution he is supposed to run. And Dr. Chimilio is said to have the full support of Sepp Blatter meriting a visit from the high official earlier this year.

On the other side is a resolute government that has now facilitated the creation of a new organization, the National Football Association of Belize, to represent and develop football in the country. The NFAB includes both the BPFL and the SLB and, in fact, under the auspices of the first meeting of the NFAB, the two rival leagues reportedly agreed to combine to become the Belize Premier Superleague, making the survival of the FFB an even more dubious proposition.

The ultimate deathblow to the FFB may be Belize's willingness to forego World Cup qualifiers and FIFA football should Dr. Chimilio remain in charge. Belizeans are reported to be apathetic to the plight of the nation's football team and FIFA's punishing trump card -- the denial of international football -- may not have an impact.

But maybe not. This isn't the first time that the government has made a run at the FFB. In 2004, the government canceled FFB's registration in the face of reprisals from FIFA and CONCACAF while many within Belize's soccer community applauded. Dr. Chimilio survived. In the near term, only football's supporters suffer.

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