Belize’s Bad Boy Bertie gets Blatter’s Backing
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday 25 June, 2011
Nothing changes at FIFA. Despite the massive corruption scandals that have made Sepp Blatter a global joke, in private he continues to protect discredited officials who remain loyal to him.
The government of Belize in Central America has accused local football boss Bertie Chimilio of banning opponents from elections so he can remain in perpetual power. On June 7, after eight years of urging the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) to publish its accounts and hold transparent elections, the government gave up and told Chimilio his federation ‘was no longer authorised to represent Belize.’
It is a high-risk decision. Belize’s footballers are currently competing in qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. On June 17 Blatter summoned FIFA’s emergency committee. Not surprisingly it ruled that the Belize government must stop ‘their severe interference.’ Until FIFA gets this guarantee, the national side is banned from playing further World Cup matches. A game against Montserrat has been postponed and may be cancelled if Belize doesn’t bow to Blatter. The team are heartbroken.
Committee of Fools
Who took the decision to suspend Belize? FIFA ‘s emergency committee is comprised of Africa’s Issa Hayatou (under investigation by the IOC for allegedly taking a $30,000 bribe), Paraguay’s Nicolas Leoz (accused of taking five bribes totalling $730,000) and Sepp Blatter (accused of forwarding a bribe to Joao Havelange and also being investigated by the IOC).
Mohammed Bin Hamman couldn’t vote; he is suspended, accused of paying $1 million in bribes in this month’s FIFA presidential election campaign. Oceania’s David Chung is a new member and alongside him is Uefa’s Michel Platini.
I emailed Platini asking if he had voted to ban Belize, what would he say to their heartbroken footballers and would he supply a copy of the report that Blatter’s bureaucrats prepared for the Emergency Committee?
He hasn’t replied. I asked FIFA for a copy of the report. They declined. They talk the talk about transparency – but nothing has changed.
‘Irregularities and misconduct’
As far back as 2004 Belize’s National Sports Council announced it had discovered ‘numerous irregularities, misconduct and improprieties on the part of the FFB.’ It demanded financial reports, minutes of meetings and properly conducted elections. It didn’t get them. President Bertie Chimilio claimed that FIFA rules prevented him from revealing what he does with the FFB’s money.
A year ago Sports Minister John Saldivar met Chimilio and asked him for evidence about how the federation elects its officials. Despite reminders, Chimilio has not been forthcoming. In early December Saldivar met with FIFA president Blatter and told him that after consulting ‘with footballers, coaches, sponsors and enthusiasts’ he knew that most FFB officials had never been elected.
Saldivar said that he had asked for proper elections and asked Blatter, respectfully, ‘I call on your high office to intervene in this matter to bring about a speedy and amicable resolution.
Blatter did nothing but Bertie Chimilio did. Elections were announced. A slate of clean-up officials was nominated to run against him. Shamelessly, Chimilio banned them all and instead of an election had himself ‘endorsed’ for another term. Outraged, Sports Minister Saldivar announced a special investigation into the FFB and officials from the National Sports Council got to work, interviewing stakeholders around the country. This is the ticking bomb that will likely force Chimilio from power.
In April this year Blatter visited Belize, but with no intention of compromise. ‘Let football be in peace,’ he warned. ‘We need the support of the government but the government should not and never interfere in the organization of our game.’ With Chimilio’s vote secured for the upcoming election, Blatter departed.
Putting Blatter on notice
Prime Minister Dean Barrow revealed, ‘Blatter had asked me for him to pay a courtesy call and I said to him that's what it was, a courtesy call. I didn't want to get into matters of controversy but I needed to put him on notice that the government has a problem with the local federation and that the Minister is pursuing a particular strategy. He didn't make any response to that and I left it there.’
The Belize football community has turned its back on Bertie’s FFB and in June stakeholders from across the country met in the National Sports Council’s offices in Belize City and created a new organisation, the National Football Association of Belize. They announced, pointedly, that officials were elected by secret ballot, not Chimilio’s usual show of hands. ‘A new light in football will shine across our country,’ said NFAB President, Michael Blease.
Blatter is fighting a rearguard battle to save Bertie Chimilio. It took only one week for his emergency committee to play the blackmail card. But the Government, given no choice by FIFA but to back off and support Chimilio’s team in the next qualifying game, is holding firm.
In a few days the report of the special investigation into the FFB will be published. It is expected to confirm that Chimilio had no grounds to disqualify his opponents, his ‘election’ is invalid and new elections must be called – with a secret ballot. It is going to be hard for Blatter and his committee to defend the poisonous suspension much longer.
Platini endorses the Dictator
Michel Platini seems to have become Blatter’s toyboy, hoping to inherit the president’s crown. Immediately after the disastrous ‘election’ on June 1 Blatter, with Platini in tow, headed for Azerbaijan. It’s a country where reporters risk jail and torture if they ask critical questions – just the kind of media coverage Blatter prefers.
Platini and Blatter went out of their way to endorse the regime, performing photocalls and handshakes for local TV with thuggish President Ilham Aliyev, who inherited the top job from his thuggish father. Over the years Blatter has been happy to prop up any dictator in the world from Charles Taylor in Liberia to the autocrats of central Asia. The message to the oppressed? Your dictator is blessed by the outside world.
Please sign up and back Belize against Blatter & the thugs
The football family in Belize has created its own Facebook page ‘Hands off Belize Football’ and is hoping for global support to force FIFA’s Emergency Committee to reverse its ban and abandon the discredited Chimilio. There’s still time for the Belize team to live their dream and play in the World Cup.
Sunday Herald, June 26, 2011