Soccer Fans In Latin America React To FIFA Corruption Charges
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela - those are some of the nationalities of the FIFA executives arrested in Switzerland today. In fact, all but a few of those who were detained are from Latin America or the Caribbean. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Rio de Janeiro and reports on regional reaction to the arrest.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: In short, Twitter in Brazil blew up. This country just hosted the World Cup. It's also soccer-mad, and it's been dealing with a devastating corruption scandal at the state oil company. So the news that Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation and one of the official organizers of the 2014 World Cup was nabbed is really big news here. This is too much corruption for one country, said one tweet. Another said this is an embarrassment, 7-1 was nothing - referencing Brazil's humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semifinals. The ex-World Cup footballer and current senator, Romario de Souza Faria, known simply here as Romario, had this to say about the arrests during a committee meeting.
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ROMARIO DE SOUZA FARIA: (Speaking Portuguese).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Unfortunately, it wasn't our police that did it," he said, "but a thief needs to be sent to jail." He added that the Brazilian Football Federation's only interest is in money to line its pockets. In fact, to most people here, the soccer leadership is seen as pretty corrupt.
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JOSE MARIA MARIN: (Portuguese spoken).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's a video of the arrested former Brazilian soccer head, Jose Maria Marin, making the rounds that shows him pocketing a medal meant for a young athlete at an awards ceremony in 2012. It's being used as proof - in the court of public opinion - of some pretty unsavory behavior. Luiz Antonio Prosperi is the chief sports editor of Brazil's biggest daily, O Estado de Sau Paulo, and he summed up the feeling here like this.
LUIZ ANTONIO PROSPERI: (Speaking Portuguese).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "The surprise wasn't that he was involved in corruption. It was that he was arrested. We never imagined that would happen," he says. Among the other officials who are being extradited is the current and former head of the regional confederation representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, two former presidents of the governing body for soccer in South America, who are from Uruguay and Paraguay respectively, the president of Costa Rica's Soccer Federation. Officials from Venezuela and Nicaragua are also alleged to have been involved in the massive bribery and kickback scheme, not to mention three Argentine businessmen. Not a great day for football in the region, says Juan Pittaluga, a reporter in Uruguay.
JUAN PITTALUGA: (Speaking Spanish).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Football in Latin America," he says, "has had a cloud over it for some time - corruption, bad management, violence. The only great thing we have is our players. The leadership," he says, "has always been a disappointment." He adds, "we hope this will mean a new era. Football is a big business - it's true. But it doesn't have to be a dirty business."
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.