Former FIFA VP Temarii ends 1-year football exile
Former FIFA vice president Reynald Temarii of Tahiti ends his 12-month suspension from football Wednesday still protesting he was the victim of injustice.
At noon Tahiti time (2200 GMT), Temarii can enter the football federation headquarters on his native south Pacific island, having served a ban imposed for breaking FIFA confidentiality rules.
Temarii was cleared of corruption, but ended his six-year presidency of the Oceania Football Confederation after being secretly filmed talking to undercover reporters during lobbying for the hosting rights of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
''I feel like someone who did nothing wrong,'' Temarii told The Associated Press via email.
Half a world away, his one-time colleagues in the FIFA executive are gathering in Zurich for a two-day meeting to begin enacting President Sepp Blatter's ''zero tolerance'' anti-corruption reforms.
Temarii was among the first casualties of FIFA's scandal-plagued recent history that forced Blatter to promise he would clean up world football's increasingly shabby standards of behavior.
Still, his offense was far from the worst. A steady stream of bribery allegations followed, helping remove his fellow continental presidents Mohamed bin Hammam of Aia and CONCACAF's Jack Warner from office.
''It's sad to see what happened because FIFA is doing a great job around the world for the kids, the youth,'' Temarii wrote.
Temarii said he did not follow FIFA's explosive internal politics this year and is not much concerned with Blatter's scheduled announcement Friday.
''I don't care,'' Temarii, a former professional player in France, said. ''I'm not interested to be back quickly on the world football stage.
''First of all, I will meet my people on the football field in Tahiti.''
It was Temarii's interest in developing football in FIFA's smallest, 11-nation region that got him into trouble.
Reporters from British newspaper The Sunday Times sought insight into the FIFA way of doing World Cup bidding business by posing as lobbyists aiming to buy votes.
Temarii met with a reporter at Oceania Football Confederation headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2010 and was filmed appearing to ask for $3 million New Zealand dollars (then $2.3 million; ?1.7 million) to fund a football academy there.
''This meeting was held in my office with two of my staff, included the OFC general secretary, Tai Nicholas, who is a lawyer,'' Temarii explained to The AP. ''The doors of my office were opened. It's enough to understand that I had nothing to hide.''
Temarii said he told the journalist that his 2018-2022 votes could not be bought and would be decided by the OFC executive committee.
''And this is exactly what happened,'' Temarii says of an Oct. 15, 2010 meeting in Tonga.
The newspaper also quoted Temarii saying backers of two other unidentified bidders offered $10 million to $12 million to Oceania.
Temarii said just over four of the 98 minutes of filmed interview was published on the newspaper's website, though all the footage was given to FIFA's ethics committee as evidence.
''They took their decision based on a fabricated video which changed the truth,'' Temarii insisted.
He challenged the one-year sanction with FIFA, which meant that Oceania could not replace him and be represented in the votes. He eventually lost and did not pursue an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Had he done so, it would likely still be unresolved.
Also Wednesday, former FIFA executive committee member Amadou Diakite will have his appeal heard at CAS. The Mali official was handed a two-year FIFA ban for advising The Sunday Times how to bribe FIFA voters.
Instead, Temarii said he spent much of the year quietly with his family. Aged just 44, he is young by FIFA standards and believes he has much to offer.
''My hopes are still the same. Use football as a tool to educate the youth, to promote 'mutual respect,' to fight obesity. I'll be back as a normal volunteer and I don't care about my reputation in world football.''
Can he envisage a return?
''In Tahiti, on Wednesday. In OFC and FIFA, (we) will see.''