Thursday, August 11, 2011

Final Marks

Before getting to the 16 CFU member association officials who will now be in the crosshairs of FIFA's ethics committee, spare a thought for the plight of Barbados' Lisle Austin.

The former acting President of CONCACAF was suspended by FIFA for a year for seeking relief in a Bahamian court against CONCACAF's treatment of him.

Mr. Austin's response? He's ticketed himself a vacation from organized football for quite some time:
/PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement issued by Lisle Austin:

FIFA's desperate attempt to suspend me through its kangaroo court affirms that it believes my rights to judicial due process are inferior to its interests of sweeping under the rug any attempt to bring transparency to the football world.

FIFA's present leadership has once again shown that it is a corrupt cabal of arrogance and cronyism, administered by individuals who continue to act outside the rule of law, seeking to destroy anyone who dares to question the existing regime.

The hearing was yet another attempt to marginalize and silence calls for reform and transparency in FIFA's lucrative dominance over the game of football.

I call on those who have already raised their honest voices – and those who have watched silently in fear -- to stand with me and demand accountability and good governance of world football, and an end to the dishonestly and greed that threatens to destroy the game we so love.

I will continue my action in the Bahamian court. I must fight for what is right and have no doubt that ultimately fairness and truth will prevail.

SOURCE Lisle Austin

Just to review, Lisle Austin paid a commercial service to distribute a press release that is -- I don't know how else to put it -- batsh*t crazy. Cue the conspiracy theories that Lisle Austin is being paid to make Sepp Blatter seem palatable.

But the tale of one man's utter delusion should not distract from the marquee: FIFA announced investigations of 16 CFU member association officials.

Colin Klass and Noel Adonis (Guyana);

Yves Jean-Bart (Haiti);

Franka Pickering and Aubrey Liburd (British Virgin Islands);

David Hinds and Mark Bob Forde (Barbados);

Richard Groden (Trinidad and Tobago);

David Frederick (Cayman Islands);

Osiris Guzman and Felix Ledesma (Dominican Republic);

Anthony Johnson (St. Kitts and Nevis);

Patrick Mathurin (St. Lucia);

Joseph Delves and Ian Hypolite (St. Vincent and the Grenadines);

Hillaren Frederick (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Attention paid to the members of this list will first be given to Colin Klass -- the only one of the 16 to be provisionally suspended pending completion of an investigation -- because of his long and controversial history in FIFA.

Recounting Mr. Klass's greatest follies is totally appropriate, but perhaps the more interesting thing is the fortuitous timing of these events. There are some parallels between Klass's current predicament and that of Dr. Bertie Chimilio in Belize. Mr. Klass faces growing domestic opposition amongst his own constituents and a looming threat of intervention from the government of Guyana. By naming Colin Klass (and Noel Adonis), FIFA has created the possibility of dreaming of a world where Mr. Klass isn't screwing Guyanese footballers.

The second name on the list that will garner attention is Haiti's Yves Jean-Bart because of his defense of FIFA and Mr. Blatter in the face of proposals to delay the President's re-election. And that's fine, but the inclusion of Mr. Jean-Bart and the Dominican Republic's Osiris Guzman and Felix Ledesma in the scope of FIFA's inquiry underscores the absurdity of the original official CFU line holding that the $40k was a grant to advance football in small nations.

The nations of Hispaniola are home to the second and third largest populations in the CFU. Amongst the far more accomplished footballing nations in Central America, only Guatemala has a bigger population than Haiti or the Dominican Republic. The little country meme doesn't fly there. Instead, these federations stand for where the CFU (and CONCACAF) have failed to make meaningful progress to develop the game in the region.

Switching gears, of interest from previous posts here, the problems of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation continue with the inclusion of the association's secretary Richard Groden on the list. And, as Stanford Conway at SKNVibes foreshadowed Sunday, FIFA also names St. Kitts & Nevis's President Anthony Johnson.

Of the remaining names, the fact that the U.S Virgin Islands' Hillaren Frederick is there will probably fly under the radar. If the investigation implies a potential suspension down the line, this would be a huge blow to USVI football which has made huge strides since ousting former President Derrick Martin in December.

Indeed, FIFA's announcement of an investigation of Mr. Fredrick was issued the exact same day as FIFA also released a puff piece lauding the rise of USVI's national team, with the article crediting Hillaren for bringing in Keith "Grell" Griffith in May to lead the team.

And I think that just about sums up the lunacy of all of this.

Derrick Martin headed the USVI Soccer Association for years. Mr. Martin failed to properly account for funds coming into the Association. Under his leadership, the federation simply stopped reporting financial information after 2007 and failed to hold an annual congress for three consecutive years.

And FIFA/CONCACAF/CFU did not care. And footballers in St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas suffered for it. Prior to Mr. Hillaren's presidency, the USVI's men's national team had played only 28 official games, losing 20 of them.

Exit Mr. Martin. This year, the team has beat the British Virgin Islands twice and advanced to the group stage of World Cup qualifying for the first time in the country's history. In two months, the USVI has moved up 51 places in world rankings.

But it may not be the hiring of Coach Griffith that will be Mr. Hillaren's most memorable act in May of 2011. One brown envelope has put the team's progress in jeopardy.

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