CONCACAF’s new Canadian chief vows to ‘clean it up’

Mexico City (AFP) – Canada’s Victor Montagliani was elected on Thursday as president of the football confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), vowing to “clean-up” the corruption-plagued organization.

Montagliani’s three predecessors all fell under graft allegations, making him CONCACAF’s fourth president in five years.

“We must start to clean up CONCACAF with these reforms (passed in February), but we know that this cleansing is not something that will happen in one or two days,” he said at a news conference following his election.

“I think you can’t totally get rid of this possibility (of wrongdoing). It’s impossible. I do think that with the new statutes and a new culture, we’ll succeed in making sure that what happened in the last years will not happen again,” he said in Spanish.

The 50-year-old head of the Canadian Soccer Association also invoked the 2026 World Cup, saying the United States, Mexico and Canada must collaborate to ensure that the tournament returns to CONCACAF.

Montagliani defeated Bermuda football chief Larry Mussenden in a 25-16 vote by members of CONCACAF during a congress in Mexico City. It was the first time that a president was elected in a secret ballot.

Prior to Thursday’s secret vote, he had been backed by the United States, Mexico, Canada, the seven Central American associations and four from the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic). 

His three predecessors were ensnared in the corruption scandal that has rocked FIFA, world football’s governing body.

Longtime chief Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, who resigned in 2011, 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.

Alfredo Hawit, who is from Honduras, was arrested in Switzerland in December and extradited to the United States a month later.

Hawit 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.

– Focus on World Cup 2026 –

Montagliani, who has worked in insurance, has headed Canada’s football association since 2012 and serves on the FIFA reform committee. 

After his election, Montagliani turned his attention to the 2026 World Cup, saying that the United States, Canada and Mexico — all interested in hosting it — should meet to ensure the tournament returns to the region.

The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994 while Mexico had it twice in 1970 and 1986. Canada hosted the Women’s World Cup last year.

Each country’s candidacy is “very strong in their own right” but they need a “collaborative strategy to make sure we bring the World Cup back to CONCACAF in 2026,” Montagliani.

He did not specify whether the countries should consider a joint bid but sources have indicated that the United States and Canada may team up.

The FIFA Council announced this week that it will announce the host of the 2026 World Cup in May 2020.

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