Shortly after the Women's World Cup Final is concluded and a few minutes before Chile and Venezuela tangle to see who will make the semifinals of the Copa America, an absolute farce will take place at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula.
To some muted fanfare, FIFA announced on July 7th that it was "provisionally" lifting the suspension of Belize to allow the national team to complete the second leg of its World Cup qualifier against Montserrat. As opaque as ever, FIFA explained: "This decision has been taken following some positive developments in the case, as reported by the FFB to FIFA."
What would that positive development have been, one wonders? It can't have been that positive, as FIFA's announcement also observed:
This return match will now be played before 17 July 2011 outside of Belize (in order to avoid the risk of the Belizean authorities not providing security guarantees, as was the case for the game originally scheduled for 19 June 2011).Hold on, what's that? The game will not be in Belize because the government may not provide security? Wouldn't that imply that, perhaps, the Belizean FA isn't considered representative of the country?
When the game kicks off, it will take place over the objection of Belize's government:
The Government, in a press release, maintained that the FFB was not recognized and called on Honduras, where reports suggested the game would be played, to respect Belize’s “sovereignty” and right to accountability from its national governing body.The Belizean government has informed FIFA that the FFB "is not authorized to represent the people and country of Belize in local or international competition, (and FIFA) continues to sanction matches for a team that is not recognized by the country of Belize as its National Team."
In other words, the team that takes the field in Honduras on Sunday would be more appropriately designated as "Dr. Chimilio's Eleven."
The moniker would not only be descriptively accurate, it would also emphasize what this dispute is all about: the continued reign of one Bertie Chimilio.
Dr. Chimilio is unlikely to be terribly worried about what the outcome will be. FIFA is on his side and if there was any question to whether this support would continue, FIFA's July 7th announcement quashed that.
If Bertie does not prevail, FIFA will not only cut off Belize from international football competitions but, far more importantly, cut off the FIFA financial fount:
Kaseke concluded that the FFB’s ban from the stadiums was causing extreme havoc and disruption to its football schedule and was preventing follow-through on plans for redevelopment of the stadiums with FIFA money.And let no one forget that Dr. Chimilio is the conduit for those funds. Why did the FFB fail to file its registration papers with the government complete and on time? Well, the FA simply "overlooked" its obligations "because of the visit to Belize of FIFA President Sepp Blatter."
On Tuesday, Belize will entertain three high level FIFA officials (Rafael Salguero, FIFA Executive Member and Emergency Committee member; Ariel Alvarado, CONCACAF Executive Member; and Rafael Tinoco, UNCAF President) and FIFA's emissaries are likely to push for even more Dr. Chimilio.
But while FIFA may be resolute in its defense of a Blatter friend and ally, the pressure on the good doctor is mounting. A report by the Sports Investigation Committee apparently lambastes the electoral system established by the FFB which resulted in Dr. Chimilio's re-election to another four-year term in December of 2010. Even at the time the election was controversial as Dr. Chimilio refused to allow Sergio Chuc, the chairman of the Belize Premier Football League, to challenge him for the presidency of the FFB. That farce acted as yet another catalyst for the current crisis.
And no one in Belize is pulling punches. When the BPFL withdrew from the FFB back in May, the e-mail sent by Mr. Chuc to the FA was released to the press and it wasn't sweetness and light:
But for the record, we are not interested in continuing to be part of the FFB. We have found over the years that the President is very deceptive, arrogant and lacks the best interest of the game. You are no better than him as you blindly follow his instructions and cannot make decisions on your own. Furthermore, the majority of district chairmen are lackeys that do the bidding of the president for a few pieces of silver, especially the chairman for Orange Walk. Mr. Palacio is by far the most dishonest person I have come to meet in the last years. I pray that you all would find it in your hearts to step down and give football a chance in Belize.Nor is Belize's press soft-pedaling their opinions.
Many are frustrated with the FFB’s undemocratic method of selecting executive members. The dictatorship reign of the president has equalled the privatization of football in which Bertie is C.E.O. and king. . . FIFA’s disregard of the government’s decision is complete disrespect to the country and disregard for its laws.Amandala:
For nearly a decade, the football community in Belize has tried to remove the present FFB President through all the constitutional avenues afforded by FIFA. But every attempt has been thwarted using often blatantly illegal tactics, which have received the blessing of FIFA’s representative in CONCACAF, then President Jack Warner. . . Belize has gone nowhere in football during this past ten years of Warner endorsed corruption and mismanagement in Belize football. And our game and football organization is in a mess, thanks to FIFA’s prolonged reluctance to intervene.However, even with blood boiling, can a little country on the Caribbean withstand FIFA's onslaught?
From the same Amandala piece quoted above:
As an afterthought, it might come as a surprise to President Blatter that, even with the largesse of FIFA’s financial generosity to the FFB, the Belize football family is still not happy. That is because, Mr. Blatter, the football family in Belize is likened to a stressed out household where the abusive husband receives a big, fat paycheck, but it all goes to the sweetheart, while only a few meagre crumbs reach his starving children. We haven’t been “feeling it” in Belize, so only a select few will miss the massive FIFA grants. That’s why Belizeans are facing the suspension without great panic or heartbreak; those with little have little to lose. Rather, there is a sense of relief, and a resolve to start over again, after ridding ourselves of this yoke of corruption and stagnation in our football.Regardless, FIFA says "Belize" will play Montserrat in Honduras on Sunday. But for supporters of Belizean football, the real game -- the match that will determine the future of the sport in the country -- will play out even further out of sight.