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Visitors to the Marriot Marquis Hotel in downtown Miami on Tuesday were greeted by a typical conference ‘Welcome Desk’ in the hotel’s spacious lobby area. Behind the desk was a banner declaring the 50th Congress of CONCACAF – the governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean was gathering, along with FIFA president Sepp Blatter, to review the year, discuss key issues and – top of the agenda – to decide whether to back Blatter in June’s FIFA elections or to support his opponent, Asian soccer chief Mohamed Bin Hammam.
It was the first time I had seen the logo of the congress. There had been no promotion of the event on the Confederation’s website, no communiques from CONCACAF inviting the press to the gathering and, somewhat strangely, the three seats at the welcome desk were empty. A rather odd ‘welcome’ to what was, in world soccer governance, a crucial meeting.
It was a crucial congress not only because of the agenda but because it was the first gathering of CONCACAF’s membership since the World Cup vote when, their bid, for the U.S to host in 2022, was defeated, sparking anger and bitterness in the American soccer community.
When FIFA awarded the hosting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, after a selection process which had been heavily criticised in the media and was subsequently attacked by some of the losing federations, particularly England‘s, there was a huge amount of pressure on soccer’s global governing body to increase its transparency and accountability. The secret voting, the endless lobbying meetings and the impression that financial weight rather than purely the merits of the bids was a key factor, created a mood of frustration and anger amongst fans, especially coming after reports of votes being sold resulting in the suspension of two members of FIFA’s executive committee.
After a wave of optimism following their successful run in the Confederations Cup, the United States have come back down to earth with their 2-1 defeat to Mexico.
Although Mexico didn’t seal their victory on Wednesday until Miguel Sabah’s strike seven minutes from the end, the result actually flattered the United States who were outplayed at the Azteca stadium.
Paolo Guerrero scored twice for Hamburg SV on Sunday in their 2-1 win over Schalke 04, whose consolation was scored by his compatriot Jefferson Farfan.
Like so often in the modern game, arranging international friendlies is much easier if you happen to be a big and powerful footballing nation.
While this week offered three lucrative and prestigious friendlies — Brazil-Italy, Spain-England and France-Argentina — smaller countries were left scratching around for opposition.
Having daubed graffiti on the wall of Brazil’s dressing-room in Santiago – ”There must be respect for the best national team in the world,” he wrote – Robinho then proceeded to tell the Chilean players where they had gone wrong.