“Are there any questions on the tournament itself? Can we start on women’s football?” In a press conference that was supposed to open the month-long Women’s World Cup in Canada, FIFA and Canadian soccer officials were bombarded with questions relating to the unfolding FIFA scandal.
The president of the Canadian Soccer Association was even asked whether his organization bribed FIFA to win the rights to host the women’s tournament in Canada.
“Absolutely not. We put a bid forward and quite frankly we were the only country that in the end bid,” said Victor Montagliani. “There were others interested but in the end we were the only country standing.”
Canada won the 2015 bid by default in March 2011 after Zimbabwe, the only other bidder, withdrew from the competition.
Montagliani also commented on Jeffrey Webb’s positive impact on international soccer, noting that he spearheaded an anti-racism campaign within the sport and launched changes to the organization’s governance structure.
The 50-year-old head of North American, Central American and Caribbean confederation CONCACAF was among the FIFA officials and executives arrested in Switzerland last week.
“It would be very hard to say you wouldn’t respect somebody of that nature,” Montagliani said, given Webb’s extensive work on reforms. “You need to maybe look in the mirror a little bit and maybe not put people on a pedestal so you can whack the hell out of them after.”
“If the allegations are true there’s absolutely no room for that in the game. Obviously if we’d all known that previously our opinions would have been quite different.”
The revelation of two-decades of corruption within global soccer federations comes just before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada on Saturday, but Montagliani has no concerns it will impact the tournament.
“I think it’s a positive thing that the first tournament after this, whatever happened last week, is the Women’s World Cup. Women’s football is a very pure form of football. I think women’s football can shine some light on the dark clouds that are hanging over the game.”
Jerome Valcke, the secretary general of FIFA, was originally scheduled to attend the Vancouver press conference, but he withdrew after U.S. authorities accused him of transferring a $10 million payment to FIFA vice-president and former CONCACAF president Jack Warner in 2008 in exchange for voting for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup.
American officials allege that beginning in the early 1990s, Warner “began to leverage his influence and exploit his official positions for personal gain.”
It is not known whether FIFA president Sepp Blatter will attend the Women’s World Cup, particularly the championship final at B.C. Place Stadium when the trophy is awarded to the winning team.
Blatter successfully fought for re-election last week, but made a surprising resignation announcement just days later on Tuesday.
To date, 920,000 tickets have been sold for the tournament in Canada. Organizers hope to reach their 1.5 million target by the end of the tournament.