South Africa Caught up in FIFA Corruption Scandal

2010_FIFA_World_CupIn what is considered a further blow to international sports, and local sports in particular, a FIFA whistleblower has admitted that he took bribes for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup. Chuck Blazer’s testimony was published by the United States Department of Justice as part of its ongoing investigation into a corruption scandal at top management levels of the international football authority, and which caused FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter to resign this week.

In his testimony, Blazer said that he and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.

Blazer started taking bribes in 1992 and continued through the 2000’s, and agreed to “take bribes and kickbacks in conjunction with the broadcast and other rights to the 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003 Gold Cups.”

On Wednesday, South Africa denied that it bribed FIFA officials with $10 million to secure their votes for the successful bid of the World Cup. Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s sports minister, said that the payment, which came to light as new evidence accuses FIFA’s Jack Warner of accepting the bribe from SA officials, was “above board”.

Mbalula said that South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup “clean”. “We had our Madiba, we had the bishop (Desmond Tutu), we had the spirit of our people, we had the world. After all, it was Africa’s time,” said the minister in press conference.

While Mbalula admitted that $10 million was paid to the former FIFA official, Jack Warner, he said that it was a donation to support the construction of a football center in the Caribbean and not a bribe.

“We categorically deny our country and government bribed anyone to receive the right to host the 2010 World Cup,” said the minister. “It was an approved programme and we can’t understand why this is now interpreted as a bribe … I can today unequivocally state for all to know that this payment was not a bribe.”

South African officials seem genuinely shocked that Sepp Blatter resigned in a dramatic press conference this week. The minister called Blatter “a good friend of South Africa” and said that “history would remember him” for being the first president to bring the World Cup to the African continent in 2010.

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