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SHOCK REVELATION IN COURT: FIFA OFFICIAL TOOK BRIBES TO BACK QATAR’S 2022 WORLD CUP BID

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The Guardian of UK has reported that an Argentine senior FIFA official, Julio Grondona, took at least $1m in bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.

The publication reported that a witness make the revelation in court, as part of a broad investigation into corruption at FIFA.

Grondona who was a senior vice-president at FIFA and head of the Argentina Football Association until his death in 2014, allegedly told the witness, Alejandro Burzaco, an Argentinian sports marketing executive, that he was owed the money in exchange for his vote, which helped Qatar secure the lucrative tournament.

Qatar’s victory, announced in December 2010 after four rounds of knockout voting by FIFA’s 22-person executive committee in Zurich, has been plagued with allegations of bribery and misconduct.

The sworn testimony, given in a New York City court on Tuesday, is some of the strongest evidence the 2022 vote was tainted.

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Burzaco, the former CEO of the Argentinian sports marketing executive Torneos y Competencias, has already pleaded guilty to handing out millions of dollars in bribes to senior South American football officials in exchange for broadcast rights to major regional tournaments.

His testimony on Tuesday alleges a sustained program of annual and one-off bribes, often over $1m a time, to a group of influential executives on South America’s footballing body, Conmebol, over a period of around a decade.

Burzaco testified that while he was arranging a $1m bribe payment to Grondona and another $1m bribe to another senior FIFA executive, Ricardo Teixeira, Grondona informed Burzaco he had taken a bribe for his World Cup vote.

In total, the former executive said, he had arranged $15m in bribes for securing the rights to Copa America, which at that point were held by a rival marketing company.

Burzaco said that Grondona told him in January 2011 to also pay him Teixeria’s $1m Copa America bribe, which the Brazilian “owed him” as “Grondona voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup”.

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The marketing executive had accompanied Grondona, Teixeria and Nicolás Leoz, then the Conmebol president, to Zurich for the vote in 2010 and had heard of their intention to back Qatar. “It was not a private thing,” Burzaco said.

As the voting got under way, Burcazo said Grondona told him that Leoz had initially voted for Japan and then South Korea.

During a break, he and Teixeria then pulled Leoz aside to “shake him up” and ask: “What the hell are you doing? Are you the one not voting for Qatar?” When the officials returned for the next vote, Leoz backed Qatar, Burcazo said.

The former marketing executive said that Grondona had not told him the total amount of money he accepted to make the Qatar vote or who the source of the bribe was.

But he claimed to have witnessed an altercation between Grondona and Qatari officials at a FIFA event months later where the football executive was furious at news reports implicating him in corrupt dealings and insinuated he had been underpaid for his vote.

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“Basically, Grondona told them [the Qatari officials]: you will pay me $80m or write a letter saying you never paid me,” Burcazo said.

Burcazo’s evidence portrayed the Argentinian executive as a kingmaker in Conmebol’s allegedly corrupt enterprise.

The marketing executive said Grondona personally approved the bribes he and five other senior Conmebol officials were paid for regional tournament rights, often dictating the amounts – frequently seven-figure sums – and taking cuts for himself.

Burcazo would frequently travel with Grondona from Argentina to Conmebol’s headquarters in Luque in Paraguay, where “three or four Mercedes” would wait for them by the runway and take them straight from the plane, allowing them to skip customs, as “someone would take care of that”.

When Grondona arrived at the headquarters, Leoz would fly “forty or fifty Argentine flags around the building” to greet him. Teixeria, who resigned as president of Brazil’s federation amid corruption allegations in 2012, would receive the same treatment.

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Burzaco’s testimony, which is expected to continue into Wednesday, also implicated the three former football executives, José Maria Marin, Manuel Burga and Juan Ángel Napout, currently on trial.

The three former officials, some of whom went on to replace Grondona, Teixeria and Leoz at the head of Conmebol, deny their role in the 24-year scheme involving at least $150m in bribes.

As his testimony commenced on Tuesday morning, Burzaco was asked to point out the three defendants in the courtroom while testifying that he bribed all of them.

The witness described a series of meeting at hotels and restaurants in Buenos Aires starting in 2012 in which he helped strike deals for annual six-figure bribes for Marin, who replaced Teixeria as president of Brazil’s soccer federation; Burga, former president of Peru’s soccer federation; and Napout, ex-head of Paraguay’s soccer federation.

After one meeting where arrangements were made to wire Marin a portion of a $2m bribe, Marin “gave me a hug and showed me his gratitude”, Burzaco said. At another, Burga “told me he was happy collecting the bribes”, he said.

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After being charged in 2015, following a morning raid on a hotel in Zurich, Burzaco testified that he briefly went into hiding before deciding to turn himself in and cooperate.

“I said, ‘Alejandro, you go to the United States and face justice,’” he said about the decision. “‘Accept responsibility.’”

The former marketing executive also claimed that several of the region’s best-known broadcasters that he had partnered with had paid bribes to football officials to secure rights to games.

This included Fox Sports, partnered with Burzaco in the T&T sports marketing company, which owned the rights to the Copa Libertadores. Fox held a 75% share of T&T from 2005, Burzaco said.

The court was presented with a sham contract written by T&T Sports and signed by the former Fox Pan American Sports chief operating officer James Ganley, which Burzaco said created to pay out $3.7m in bribes to Conmebol officials to keep the rights to the tournament.

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Fox Sports denied that the company had been aware of or approved bribes, saying in a statement: “Fox Sports had no operational control of the entity which Burzaco ran.

The entity run by Burzaco was a subsidiary of Fox Pan American Sports, which in 2008, at the time of the contract in question, was majority owned by a private equity firm and under their operational and management control.”

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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International Football

Nigeria’s Nnadozie, Malawi striker, Chawinga scoop top awards in France

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Malawi striker Tabitha Chawinga and Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria have been named the best player and best goalkeeper respectively in the French women’s league.

Chawinga wasted no time in making an impact upon her arrival in France after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Inter Milan in less than one year.

 The Malawi captain joined PSG in the summer of 2023 and has quickly showcased her talent, resulting in the top award on Monday night.

She played 25 matches, scoring 18 goals and providing 10 assists while donning the iconic red and blue jersey.

As a semifinalist in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, PSG’s number 22 became the first Malawian to score a goal in a European competition.

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Meanwhile, Nnadozie has had an exceptional season with Paris FC which had led to dethrone Christiane Endlerthe – long standing best goalkeeper in the French women’s top-flight.

The Nigerian goalkeeper boasts 10 clean sheets in 28 appearances in the French league.

For the first time in her career, Nnadozie has been recognized in this category, ending the dominance of Endler, who was named the best goalkeeper in the French league from 2019 to 2023.

Chawinga and Nnadozie’s achievements highlight the growing influence of African players abroad as their performances will pave the way for future generations of footballers from the continent to shine on the global stage.

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What a twist of fate! Before now, Morocco and Algeria were  allies

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When FIFA Suspended Morocco for Supporting Algeria’s Independence

Despite Morocco’s historical solidarity with Algeria, the regime continues to politicize sporting events in search of opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

Algeria continues to push with its obsessive tendency to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity despite the country’s long-standing solidarity with its National Liberation Front (FLN) in international sporting events.

Last week, the Algerian regime confiscated the jerseys of a Moroccan club RS Berkane ahead of a CAF Confederation match in Algeria due to the fact that they featured a full map of Morocco.

The decision drew outrage from Moroccans and international observers who decried Algeria’s politicizing of sporting events and its constant search for opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

On Saturday, Algerian journalist and political analyst, Oualid Kebir, took to social media exposing the regime’s disregard for Morocco’s historical support for the Algerian FLN in international sporting events.

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Kebir highlighted Morocco’s “heroic” and “strong supportive stances” during Algerian’s challenging times during French occupation. “Morocco’s historical and heroic stance at that time is added to the honorable and strong supportive stances at that time towards Algeria,” the post read. 

Kebir’s statement referred to Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF) organizing a match in 1958 against the FLN team despite the fact that the team was not recognized by FIFA. The team consisted then of French Muslim (Algerian) players who had been suspended by the French Football Federation.

FIFA’s justification at the time for punishing Morocco was due to the licensing of the FRMF clubs to play against the FLN team. 

“Today, the military regime disguises ingratitude and compels Algerian clubs and sports teams to refuse to play and confront their Moroccan counterparts who display the map of Morocco on their jerseys!” Kebir wrote, decrying Algeria’s ungratefulness to Morocco’s historical support.

“This is the reward for standing with us during difficult times?!” he stressed.

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Attached to the post was the official document from FIFA outlining its decision to revoke the affiliation of the FRMF due to Morocco’s authorization of its clubs to play matches against the Algerian national team, despite FIFA’s objections. 

Algeria’s blatant attacks on Morocco’s sovereignty have especially peaked over the past days with the country staunchly attempting to politicize yet another sporting event.

One such event occurred during the Arab Championship this week, where the Algerian U-17 national handball team withdrew in protest of Morocco’s jersey featuring a full map of Morocco that includes its southern provinces. 

After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced RS Berkane to be the winner of the Sunday match, Algeria relentlessly appealed the decision, losing the appeal in the process.

However, the regime announced that they would take their case to a higher court, alleging that the jerseys include a political symbol.

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In January 2023, Algeria orchestrated a similar attack on Morocco through the African Nations Championship (CHAN). During the tournament, the Algerian regime denied the Moroccan team the right to participate and defend their title, while using the tournament’s opening ceremony as a political platform to express support for the Polisario Front. 

-Morocco World News

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