The 2014 World Cup In Brazil: Or, Ricardo Teixeira’s Fiefdom

And so, with the 2010 World Cup passing into the history books, we peek ahead to 2014, as the World Cup returns to South America for the first time since 1978, heading to Brazil. It has been a long break for the continent: 4 of the first 11 World Cups staged were held there, but none of the 8 since. And now the question comes: is Brazil ready to run this show?

This is, of course, the same question that exhausted South African ears over the past several years. It turned out that South Africa was prepared and that Danny Jordaan, CEO of the World Cup Local Organising Committee, had done a tremendous job. Jordaan, briefly a professional soccer player himself in the early 1970s ahead of his time as an anti-apartheid activist, is by all reports tough, humble. and hugely capable. The whiff of corruption does not follow him around as it does so many connected to FIFA (OK, there is one very faint whiff).

The man in charge of the 2014 World Cup, Ricardo Teixeira (president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF)), has spent the past two decades doing little but generating suspicion of corruption in many of his dealings running Brazilian soccer. Teixeira is head of the Local Organising Committee, and also sits on FIFA’s 24 man Executive Committee.

Brazil’s Congress extensively investigated the corruption impeding the domestic game in Brazil at the highest levels in 2000-01: Teixeira, president of the CBF since 1989, was forced to admit he had lied about having only one bank account (conceding he had a second, operated out of the Cayman Islands at Delta Bank, at the time under investigation by the US government for money laundering). This Independent newspaper report on the Congressional investigation paints a picture of Teixeira struggling to hide his corrupt dealings, and making a promise to resign from his post in 2003 that he has yet to fulfil:

The president of the CBF was once the son-in-law of the former Fifa president, Joao Havelange. Teixeira has none of his mentor’s aristocratic bearing and has been regarded as an arrogant bully boy, yet even he has embraced humility as the inquiry has progressed. Even before his long-awaited appearance at the commission last week, Teixeira declared that he would leave the post at the end of his current mandate in 2003 and spoke openly about his mistakes. He admitted that some of the clauses in the Nike contract had needed correcting, and he agreed that he had erred in selling dairy produce from his farm to the CBF. As he shuffled through his files last week he gave the appearance of a schoolboy trying to cover up the fact that he had not done his homework. He had not brought an up-to-date version of the Nike contract and could not recall to how many politicians the CBF had made donations.

Ah, yes, João Havelange: the corrupt FIFA chief and the father-in-law of Teixeira at the time of the latter’s sudden elevation from obscure lawyer to head of the CBF. Soon, Teixeira was rich, with a condo in Miami, bodyguards, and an ever-increasing salary.

Ricardo Teixeira, FIFA, corruption

That CBF deal with Nike mentioned above left many wondering where all the money had gone: it certainly hadn’t filtered into development of the domestic game. The results of the Congressional investigations were damning for Teixeira:

The probe that exposed Teixeira began with a Brazilian congressional investigation (aka CPI) into a $4 billion, ten-year contract the Nike Corporation had with the Brazilian football conference (CBF). The investigation, as is the wont of many investigations, discovered a network and underlying web of deceit, lies, and illegal dealings that ran the gamut from forgery to outright theft of funds and bribery. The first CPI was in fact brought to a close with many of its investigative discoveries squashed because the committee itself voted to keep the report of its findings secret from publication. The reality was that many of the members of the investigative body were tied in with the CBF. Men such as Eurico Miranda were on the committee. Miranda also happened to be an owner of a team in the CBF, the Vasco da Gama club.  But Miranda, and others like him with CBF tie-ins, saw no reason to recuse themselves from the investigation or any ensuing votes because of this obvious conflict of interest.

It was a second CPI that the Brazilian congress convened that did trap Teixeira and others that were involved with the illegalities involving the soccer industry in Brazil.

Among the discoveries involving Teixeira were (1) he as the president of the CBF took on loans for over $30 million for the organization from a New York bank at the interest rate of about 53% annually; (2) he received from this same bank a personal loan but at the rate of 10% annually; (3) he supposedly helped to broker a $9 million fee to Jos Hawilla for acting as a go-between for the CBF and a Nike deal. Hawilla was a journalist for the Traffic Company. (That name Traffic sound familiar?) and (4) falsifying an expense of $8 million to be paid to a former partner, Marelo Tiraboschi, for being a supposed middleman for a ten-year sponsorship deal worth over $175 million with a company named Ambev.

The investigation was a humiliation for Teixeira, as it concluded that “Lack of control, disorganisation and bad management reign rife in the CBF. Mr Ricardo Teixeira, as president, is directly responsible for creating an environment which is ripe for an administrative disaster.”

The hundreds of millions of dollars that poured into the CBF’s coffers in the 1990s due to their lucrative deals with Nike and television company Traffic (run by a close ally of Teixeira) were spent without a budget, while expenditure on hotels and transport for officials rose 600%, and junket trips to the ’94 and ’98 World Cup were given to many people who had nothing to do with the sport, the investigation found.

Amazingly, Teixeira was reelected for a seven-year term as head of the CBF in 2007.

Last year, Teixeira was convicted of avoiding customs taxes, after returning home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States with 17 tons of imported goods that he failed to pay tax on.

Indeed, to go back to 1994, Teixeira had a run in with Pelé ahead of the 1994 World Cup that saw the star banned from the World Cup draw in Las Vegas, as Rob Hughes wrote in a 1994 New York Times article on Pelé’s elevation to Sports Minister in the Brazilian government:

And while Pelé, to my knowledge, has had a public run-in with only one man, that man happens to be Ricardo Teixeira, who presides over the CBF, Brazil’s soccer federation. More than that, Teixeira is the son-in-law of João Havelange, the Brazilian president of FIFA who single-handedly barred Pelé from the World Cup draw in Las Vegas a year ago.

It was an horrendous example of Havelange’s vindictiveness, and an early warning that the aging president intends to maneuver his son-in-law into becoming his successor in charge of the world game.

Pelé, then as now, was the catalyst between soccer and the American people; Havelange the autocrat blankly refused to speak Pelé’s name, or to discuss with his FIFA executive his reason for banning from the ceremony the greatest player the game has known.

We knew the reason. Pelé had accused Teixeira of corruption, of accepting a million-dollar bribe to favor one television contract over another, and Teixeira was suing Pelé in the Brazilian courts. So Havelange, having installed Teixeira on FIFA committees, shut out Pelé.

The backstory was that Pelé had attempted to purchase the broadcasting rights in Brazil to the 1994 World Cup, but had refused to pay $1m into a Swiss bank account as ordered by the CBF, under Teixeira’s direction. And then he had refused to keep quiet about it.

But Teixeira eventually won back the support of Pelé, whose attempts to lead reform of the Brazilian game in the 1990s failed. And that support from Pelé, coming right after the results of Brazil’s Congressional inquiry came out in 2001 and threatened to skewer Teixeira’s career, saved Teixeira, as they shared the stage to condemn the inquiry’s results. In Soccer Explains The World, Franklin Foer cites a columnist for the Brazilian sports daily Lance! on this sad moment for Brazilian soccer: “The union of Pelé and Teixeira is the biggest stab in the back that those of us fighting for ethics in sport could receive . . . He has sold his soul to the devil.”

This man, then, Ricardo Teixeira, is responsible for organising the 2014 World Cup, an organisation already described as “amazingly” behind schedule, and subject to Teixeira’s political needs, according to Tim Vickery:

Teixeira’s need to keep his power base onside has already affected the organisation of the tournament. Many state presidents wanted 2014 games to be staged in their domain, so the CBF successfully lobbied Fifa to have 12 host cities, rather than the original plan of between eight and 10. Seventeen cities applied – one later pulled out – and, to save Teixeira from the political embarrassment of excluding some of them, the final decision was pushed to Fifa.

Vickery, the most accomplished observer of the South American game we have in the English-language, concludes that the Teixeira-led power structure is the main danger to the preparations:

For all its progress, the moment in Brazil is very different [from South Africa]. Its football administrators could not be further removed from activists. They represent the old, semi-feudal Brazil.

Federal Deputy Paulo Rattes wrote a Congressional report on 2014 planning. “What struck me about South Africa,” he said, “was that there was participation from society and political leaders.” In Brazil, meanwhile, “it is a black box that no one enters, only Ricardo Teixeira and his friends.”

That black box of Teixeira is where the World Cup is headed in four years, sad to say.

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