CONCACAF to pick new chief after leader arrested

Mexico City (AFP) – The scandal-plagued football confederation of North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) will pick a new president on Thursday, after its last three leaders faced corruption allegations.

CONCACAF members will meet in Mexico City to choose a new leader some five months after its last president, Alfredo Hawit, was arrested in December.

The two finalists for the job — Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani and Bermuda Football Association president Larry Mussenden — have both vowed to clean up the organization.

Antigua and Barbuda official Gordon Derrick, who had been seeking the presidency, was barred from running last month after a background check by world football governing body FIFA, which did not reveal the reason for his exclusion.

CONCACAF has been at the heart of the global corruption scandal engulfing world football since May last year.

Long-time CONCACAF president Jack Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago, is currently fighting against extradition to the United States after being indicted for racketeering and conspiracy.

Jeffrey Webb, who succeeded Warner, pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud last year after being extradited from Switzerland.

Hawit, who is from Honduras and was extradited from Switzerland in January, appeared in a New York court last month and pleaded guilty to four criminal charges, including racketeering and wire fraud in connection with the FIFA scandal.

While the regional grouping will pick a new leader, FIFA will hold a Congress on Thursday and Friday during which new president Gianni Infantino will push reforms to clean up world football.

– Montagliani: backed by big nations –

Montagliani, 50, has headed Canada’s football association since 2012 and serves on the FIFA reform committee. 

He has the backing of the United States, Mexico, Canada, the seven Central American associations and four from the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic). 

Montagliani, who has worked in the insurance business, has vowed to bring more transparency at CONCACAF, starting from the top.

The scandals “have sullied our sport and badly undermined the public’s trust in football’s governing bodies,” Montagliani wrote in an open letter announcing his candidacy in February.

He said the game must be “governed in a principled and professional way that, above all else, protects the integrity of the game.”

He has also said the organization, which groups 41 football association, must be less fragmented between the interests of its different regions.

– Mussenden: A former cop –

Mussenden is a former justice minister who has led the football association of the small island of Bermuda since 2010. He previously held the job between 2001-2008.

He once worked as a police officer and trained as a lawyer specializing in criminal law.

“CONCACAF has recently experienced what is arguably the darkest period in its proud history,” he wrote in a manifesto last month. 

“We must now seize the opportunity to make the Federation great again, to make it a role model of integrity, sound governance, inspired leadership and, above all, excellence in football.”

He pledged to ensure that CONCACAF becomes a “democratic” and transparent organization, and recover some of the $190 million seized by US authorities to share it among member associations.

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