FIFA corruption mystery revealed in leak of World Cup probe

Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam. (AP)
Updated 27 June 2017

FIFA corruption mystery revealed in leak of World Cup probe

SOCHI, Russia: A big mystery in the recent era of corruption linked to FIFA is being revealed this week.
The report into suspected corruption in the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests — involving 11 nations and won by Russia and Qatar — has been the mystery ever since American investigator Michael Garcia delivered it more than 2-1/2 years ago.
A leaked copy of the 430-page document kept confidential by FIFA and Switzerland’s attorney general has finally surfaced.
Germany’s biggest-selling daily Bild began publishing extracts in its Tuesday edition. It promises more revelations all week as FIFA leaders gather in Russia for the Confederations Cup final, a dress rehearsal for a World Cup next year that was won controversially in December 2010.
Garcia’s report was once expected to be explosive and became a holy grail for FIFA critics who thought the votes could be re-run.
Many believe bid leaders in Russia and Qatar must have engaged in wrongdoing to earn the votes of a FIFA executive committee lineup in 2010 that has since been widely discredited.
Most of those who took part in the 2010 vote have since been banned for unethical conduct, indicted on corruption charges by the US Department of Justice, or remain under scrutiny by Swiss federal prosecutors who have 25 ongoing investigations involving more than 170 bank transactions suspected as money laundering.
Still, do not expect the long-held suspicions to be proven this week.
“The (Garcia) report does not provide proof that the World Cup was bought in 2018 or 2022,” Bild journalist Peter Rossberg, who obtained the leaked copy, wrote in a Facebook post providing context to his initial story.
So, the Bild reports are not expected to provide a smoking gun, yet the Garcia Report has been a crucial catalyst to exposing corruption in the world of international footballing politics.

What was published in 2014?
Garcia, a former US Attorney in Manhattan, delivered his investigation in September 2014 to FIFA’s then-ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert.
The German judge published a summary two months later that acknowledged widespread wrongdoing among most of the 11 nations which bid to stage the tournament in 2018 or 2022.
However, Eckert concluded the wrongdoing had not decisively influenced the vote results. While Russia’s Vladimir Putin-backed bid won an all-European contest easily, Qatar was pushed to a final round in a five-bid 2022 contest to beat the US 14-8.
Garcia disputed Eckert’s 42-page summary conclusion and soon resigned, though not before FIFA handed his work to Switzerland’s attorney general.
That Swiss investigation goes on. It has already helped remove Sepp Blatter as FIFA president and targets German organizers of the 2006 World Cup, including footballing great Franz Beckenbauer.
Swiss federal prosecutors are working closely with the US Department of Justice, in its own sprawling case.

What is new this week?
Bild revealed that Garcia investigated a payment of $2 million made to a FIFA voter’s 10-year-old daughter in 2011. That allegation surfaced in Brazilian and British media more than three years ago naming the official as Ricardo Teixeira. The Brazilian left FIFA in 2012 to avoid sanctions for taking kickbacks.
French and Brazilian media have also previously published Bild’s report that three FIFA members were flown to a 2010 meeting in Rio in a Qatari-owned private jet.
The extract from Garcia’s report states that Qatar’s Aspire sports academy was used to “curry favor with executive committee members.” This, Garcia added, “created the appearance of impropriety. Those actions served to undermine the integrity of the bidding process.”
Eckert’s summary stated that Qatar “pulled Aspire into the orbit of the bid in significant ways.” Yet he concluded the “potentially problematic facts and circumstances” about Qatar’s bid did not “compromise the integrity” of the overall bid process.

What does it mean for Qatar?
Qatar has always denied any wrongdoing in its surprise win. One strategy has been distancing itself from the country’s tainted former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam.
Bild’s reports aim to provide new detail on how Qatar’s network of state and sports agencies helped to lobby FIFA voters.
The tiny emirate is now spending tens of billions of dollars building the infrastructure to cope with football’s biggest event.
The timing of the leak coincides with a regional diplomatic crisis that has left Qatar under a blockade by its neighbors. Accusing Qatar of supporting extremist ideology, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have pressured Qatar with a Sunday deadline to enact a 13-point list of demands.

And Russia?
The timing is embarrassing for Russia, though it likely has little to fear directly from Bild. That is partly because Russia “made only a limited amount of documents” available to Garcia’s team, Eckert wrote in 2014.
Garcia had been banned in 2013 from entering Russia; the bid team’s leased computers were later destroyed; staffers’ e-mail accounts were not retrieved from Google.
Still, on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia’s top football official Vitaly Mutko should join FIFA President Gianni Infantino at a news conference.
Most questions will be about alleged corruption, not football.

Why does the Garcia Report still matter?
A Garcia Report leak would have been huge before May 27, 2015. Everything changed for FIFA that day.
American and Swiss federal prosecutors revealed their huge investigations on the day FIFA was raided for evidence and football officials were arrested in early-morning hotel raids in Zurich.
The Garcia Report was overtaken by events driven by prosecutors in Brooklyn and Bern with greater evidence-gathering powers.
Garcia is now an appeals court judge in the state of New York. His work for FIFA is over, the fallout is certainly not.

Al-Hilal overcome Al-Nassr in Riyadh Derby to go clear at the top of Saudi Professional League

Updated 24 November 2020

Al-Hilal overcome Al-Nassr in Riyadh Derby to go clear at the top of Saudi Professional League

  • The two fierce rivals will meet for a rematch this weekend in the delayed final of the 2019-20 King’s Cup

The first Riyadh derby of the 2020-21 Saudi Professional League season went the way of the reigning champions, as Al-Hilal overcame last season’s runners-up, Al-Nassr, 2-0 at King Saud University Stadium.

The result highlighted the contrasting starts by the two clubs to the new campaign. Al-Hilal started the match joint top of the table with Al-Shabab, on 10 points. Al-Nassr, on the other hand, have endured a nightmare start to the season. After three losses and only one win, they started the day in lowly 13th position on only three points.

The match was given some added spice by the fact that the fierce rivals will meet again on Saturday in the delayed final of the 2019-20 King’s Cup.

Despite their plight, Al-Nassr started the brighter of the teams, with the home side strangely wasteful in possession. However, the first real chance of the half fell to Al-Hilal on 15 minutes. Bafetimbi Gomis exchanged passes with Sebastian Giovinco, only to side-foot the ball wide from an inviting position.

Al-Nassr hit back on 28 minutes when the excellent Sultan Al-Ghanam’s stinging shot was saved by Habib Al-Wotayan, as the visitors continued to frequently threaten the champions. Neither club showed anywhere near enough of a cutting edge to break the first-half deadlock, however.

At half-time, Abderrazak Hamdallah — the league’s top scorer for the past two seasons, and with four goals in Riyadh derbies to his name — replaced Khalid Al-Ghannam in an attempt to bolster Al-Nassr’s attack.

It was the home team that got the first big break of the second period, however, when a penalty was awarded on 56 minutes for a foul on Al-Hilal’s Argentinian forward, Luciano Vietto.

Gomis stepped up to calmly, in his inimitable style, to put the spot kick past Brad Jones and give Razvan Lucescu’s team a lead they would not relinquish.

Just after the hour, Al-Nassr coach Rui Vitoria responded by throwing on Moroccan star Nordin Amrabat for Abdullah Al-Khaibari and Ali Al-Hassan for Abdulmajeed Al-Sulayhem.

The double substitution looked to have paid dividends within a few minutes as Pity Martinez’s hanging cross was tapped on by Ayman Yahya for Amrabat to finish from close range. But after the video assistant referee was consulted, the goal was disallowed for an earlier offside.

With 10 minutes left, Al-Hilal brought on Syrian international Omar Kharbin in the hope of settling the match, while Al-Nassr went for broke at the other end.

With eight minutes of stoppage time added, the match remained on knife edge until, with seconds left, Gomis put Saleh Al-Shehri through on goal and the Saudi international finished with style to put the result beyond doubt.

Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulaihi was glad to get a tough match out of the way before the two teams meet again in the cup final next weekend.

“The match was not easy and we dedicate it to our coach, who set up the team for this win,” he said. “We are 10 points clear and we can put aside the league for a while now as we concentrate on the King’s Cup final. Of course, the win gives us a big push in the final.”

He dedicated the clean sheet to absent goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, and added: “The coach had told us not to force things, that the goal could come at any time. That’s exactly what happened. We were not in a hurry and, more importantly, we didn’t concede either.”

The man who replaced Al-Mayouf in goal, Al-Motayan, was pleased to keep a clean sheet in his first derby, and thanked his teammates for their solid defensive performance.

“I found out I was playing one day before the match but we prepared for Al-Nassr like every other opponent — the most important thing was getting the three points,” he said. “My colleagues helped men a lot during the match and I can say I had complete support from the players, coaches and board.”

Vitoria was happy with his team’s performance but not with the manner of the defeat, revealing that Hamdallah and Amrabat were not fit to play the whole match after the international break.

“We can’t have players play if they are not completely ready to play the whole 90 — maybe 45 is ok. This is football,” he said.

“In the first half we played a good game, tactically. My team did not allow any chances for the opposition. We had seven shots, they had two. In the second half we were better — and, in fact, in the whole match we were better. But some of the details, like the penalty, made the difference.

“They had more possession in the first half but we allowed that. No, I’m not satisfied because we did not win. We fought and played well. The result is one thing and the performance is another.”

Vitoria disputed whether his side’s disallowed goal was truly offside, and revealed he had words with the referee after the final whistle, in a very calm and respectful manner.

“We have a final in five days and we will be back,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Al-Raed beat Abha Club 2-1, thanks to goals from Ahmed Zain and Mohammed Fouzair. Al-Ain won 2-0 away to Damac, with Faisel Al-Jamaan and Saphir Taider doing the damage either side of half time.

The other three matches of match day five ended in ties. Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Batin shared four goals, Al-Faisaly and Al-Ittihad drew 1-1, and Al-Shabab’s 2-2 draw at Al-Ahli kept them in second place in the league.